Unilateral action not ruled out against Saddam

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 March, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 March, 2002, 12:00am

President George W. Bush has warned that the US is prepared to go it alone in Iraq or elsewhere as his 'new war' on terrorism developed.

In a rare White House press conference, Mr Bush expanded his unilateralist rhetoric of recent months, saying he was creating a new nuclear 'deterrence' so the US could not be threatened.

'We want to make it very clear to nations that you will not threaten the United States or use weapons of mass destruction against us, or our allies or friends,' Mr Bush said.

While he pledged continuing consultation on any effort to drive Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, he implied the US would act alone if it felt it had to, saying 'all options are on the table'.

'We need to work in concert to confront this danger . . . but one thing I will not allow is a nation such as Iraq to threaten our very future by developing weapons of mass destruction,' he said.

'This is a nation run by a man . . . who has obviously something to hide. And he is a problem and we are going to deal with him.'

Mr Bush's remarks came as his Vice-President, Dick Cheney, continued during his 10-nation Middle East tour to sell the need for a push on Baghdad, warning the September 11 attacks intensified the need to end Saddam's regime.

Asked if he would be prepared to mount military action in states such as Indonesia or Somalia, where US help in fighting terrorism was not requested, he said: 'We will take actions necessary to protect American people. I'm going to leave it at that.'

He added that the US military was in 'good shape', despite its lengthening list of commitments.

Responding to reports that his administration was eyeing a new generation of smaller nuclear weapons for potential future conflicts - including with China, North Korea, Iran, Iraq and Libya - Mr Bush said the US remained a 'peaceful' nation committed to policies of deterrence and bringing down the overall number of nuclear warheads.

Asked if he was worried about getting bogged down in a modern Vietnam, Mr Bush said he had learned the lessons of that conflict and any mission must be clear.

He said he preferred to compare the current 'new war' with World War II.

'This is a war in which we fight for the liberties and freedom of our country,' Mr Bush said.

In repeated questions about the failure to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda's leadership, Mr Bush admitted he did not know their whereabouts.

'It's going to take a long time to achieve this objective. And I can assure you, I'm not going to get tired. I'm not going to blink. Because I know what is at stake,' he said.