WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- The president of the United States asked Congress Thursday for a resolution that would allow him to use "all means that he determines appropriate, including force," to protect the country from threats posed by Iraq and to enforce adherence to United Nations resolutions.
The request took the form of a draft resolution and includes paragraphs justifying possible military action with previous bills passed that would authorize it.
It also pointedly linked Iraq to terrorism in the "whereas" paragraphs of the document.
"Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens and interests, including the attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;
"Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of American citizens;
"Whereas the attacks on the United States of Sept. 11, 2001, underscored the gravity of the threat that Iraq will transfer weapons of mass destruction to international terrorist organizations; ... the United States has the inherent right ... to use force to defend itself," the document said.
The White House said the draft was sent to the leadership offices on Capitol Hill, and it expressed a willingness to work with legislators on its language.
That commitment was underlined during the day when groups of Republican and Democratic representatives trooped to the White House to meet with either President George W. Bush or members of his national security team on the proposed resolution, which the White House hopes will be voted upon before Congress adjourns early next month ahead of mid-term elections.
"There are a number of Democrats, including our leaders, who think Congress has an important role to play here ..." in helping build a coalition in Congress and abroad in confronting Iraq, Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., said after meeting with Bush.
The most effective way to build an international coalition, he said, was by demonstrating strong support in Congress for the president in dealing with Saddam Hussein.
Bush, following in his father's 1991 footsteps, had announced he would seek congressional support earlier this month, while also seeking a U.N. Security Council resolution that not only lays out the Iraqi regime's 11-year record of defying international resolutions, but also details what action would be taken if Saddam were not to immediately come into compliance.
Berman saw the president as part of a 12-person, bipartisan group of legislators who would act as point men for the administration on Capitol Hill, helping sell the draft resolution and seek out member input and questions.
The representatives, meeting briefly with the media Thursday after speaking with Bush, repeatedly stressed the word "bipartisan."
Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y., also stressed that the resolution did not spell war.
"The most important word I heard inside (the White House) was 'if,'" he said. "The resolution is not intended as a declaration of war."
The White House, which has not yet released the language of the draft resolution, said it builds upon the 1998 resolution by Congress, which makes the ouster of Saddam national policy.
Bush, following a meeting Thursday with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, made it clear the provision for the use of force was necessary.
"If you want to keep the peace, you got to have the resolution to use force, he said."
The time for negotiations with Saddam was over, he said, and the Iraqi leader must comply without condition or prevarication with previous promises to the United Nations. If the U.N. Security Council wouldn't act decisively, then the United States would.
"At the United Nations Security Council, it is very important that the members understand that the credibility of the United Nations is at stake, that the Security Council must be firm in its resolve to deal with a true threat to world peace, and that is Saddam Hussein, that the United Nations Security Council must work with the United States and Britain and other concerned parties to send a clear message that we expect Saddam to disarm," Bush said.
"And if the United Nations Security Council won't deal with the problem, the United States and some of our friends will."
Earlier this month, the president began a "consultative" process with Congress and an outreach effort with the United Nations after months of going it alone on Iraq pronouncements.
Last Thursday, he stood before the U.N. General Assembly and detailed 16 blatant violations of Iraq's promises to the international body.
The White House warns that Iraq's suspected stockpile of chemical and biological weapons, combined with an ongoing program to acquire more, and even a nuclear weapon, pose a severe threat to world peace as well as U.S. interests.
U.S. efforts to garner support among U.N. members for a firm stand against Iraq were blindsided Monday when Iraq announced it was now willing to allow a return of the weapons inspectors it banned in 1998.
France and Russia -- key Security Council members because of the power they hold on veto resolutions -- later said that given the Iraq offer, a resolution authorizing international action against Iraq was no longer needed.
Bush has said time is not on the side of the world in dealing with Iraq and has pushed for swift action. The offer, he insists, was a ruse to delay action against Saddam and exploit the chasm between the United States and most of its allies over military action against Iraq.
Saddam, replying to Bush, had his foreign minister read a letter to the U.N. General Assembly Thursday in which he denied Iraq had rejected U.N. mandates and accused the United States of coveting the region's oil.
The White House characterized it as "more of the same" and "disappointing." Iraq, it said, was still trying to move the United Nations down a "dead end."