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Bush unfazed by criticism

By Sridhar Krishnaswami

Washington Feb. 9. Unfazed by the mounting criticism in Europe over his stance on Iraq, the U.S. President, George W Bush, has once again reminded Americans and allies that if the United Nations does not step forward to disarm Iraq, the United States will.

"The United States along with a growing coalition of nations will take whatever action is necessary to defend ourselves and disarm the Iraqi regime'', Mr. Bush said in his weekly radio broadcast on Saturday.

Mr. Bush further charged that the deception game that is coming out of Baghdad has been led and directed at the very highest levels that includes Saddam Hussein, his son and the Vice- President.

Mr. Bush also brought in the terrorist and terrorism angle. " Saddam Hussein has long standing, direct and continuing ties to terrorist networks.

Senior members of Iraqi intelligence and Al-Qaeda have met at least eight times since the early 1990s'', Mr. Bush pointed out.

Mr. Bush who is facing a lot of opposition from Europe, especially from France and Germany argued that the threat of Iraq continues and the violations are quite evident.''

"The Iraqi regime's violations of Security Council resolutions are evident. They are dangerous to America and the world and they continue to this hour'', Mr. Bush said.

The President's continuing focus on Iraq came on the day that the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, stressed the need for acting within the confines of the Security Council and the perils of going about alone.

"War is always a human catastrophe, a course that should only be considered when all other possibilities have been exhausted and when it's obvious that the alternative is worse'', Mr. Annan said at the College of William and Mary.

The Secretary-General had a warning for the United States. "This is not an issue for any one state but for the international community as a whole.

When states decide to use force, not in self defence, but to deal with broader threats to international peace and security, there is no substitute for the unique legitimacy provided by the U.N. Security Council'', Mr. Annan stressed.

The White House is making the point that the Bush administration's stance on Security Council Resolution 1441 has not changed.

Washington has also been making the point in recent days that the Iraqi material breach of its obligations is `more'; and has been brushing aside suggestions that the Security Council should be giving more time to the weapons inspections process currently under way.

The predominant thinking here and in New York is that the next few days are very critical in the sense that much depends on what the top weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohammad ElBaradei are going to tell the Council on February 14.

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