WASHINGTON—President Bush seemed ready Tuesday to give up on U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq, saying he is now convinced that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein isn't cooperating.
"It's clear to me now that he is not disarming," Bush said. "This business about more time—how much more time do we need to see that he's not disarming? This looks like a rerun of a bad movie, and I'm not interested in watching it."
The president's blunt comments, his toughest to date, came amid other signs that the administration is moving closer to war. The White House also issued a 32-page document on Iraq's disinformation and propaganda activities, titled "Apparatus of Lies."
Built largely on long-existing reports, the document cites a pattern of misdeeds by Saddam's regime, including parking military hardware at civilian sites to protect it from U.S. airstrikes, exaggerating the humanitarian impact of U.N. sanctions and pretending devotion to Muslim ideals while demanding money from Iraqis who want to go on pilgrimage to Mecca.
And in a speech delivered with Bush's blessing and advance White House promotion, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said the United States had "just about exhausted" diplomatic alternatives to military action.
Armitage's speech was the opening salvo in a Bush administration campaign to make the case that Iraq isn't complying with U.N. weapons inspections, despite outward appearances of cooperation.
But the president's efforts to lay the groundwork for military action continued to meet strong resistance from most allies. After declaring its opposition Monday to war anytime soon, France began an effort to enlist the 15-member European Union in an international antiwar movement.
France, Germany, China and other leading powers on the U.N. Security Council maintain that U.N. arms inspections should continue at least two more months before making a judgment on war. Chief U.N. nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei said last weekend that he would recommend that inspectors get "a few more months" to do their work.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Tuesday that Germany wouldn't support a U.N. resolution in favor of war on Iraq. France has suggested that it may use its veto power as a permanent Security Council member to block any early effort to win such a resolution.
The Security Council is expected to debate the issue next week after receiving a report from its weapons inspectors Monday, although it remains unclear if anyone will push for a war resolution then. The Bush administration has maintained that a new resolution isn't necessary, arguing that last fall's U.N. resolution and others already authorize it to act. Bush has said he is ready to act unilaterally but prefers to go through the United Nations. Polls show most Americans don't want a war unless the United Nations and major U.S. allies approve.
Bush appeared Tuesday to reject calls to give inspectors more time.
"Surely, our friends have learned lessons from the past. Surely we have learned how this man deceives and delays," he said. When asked how he will decide when to go to war, he said, "I will let you know when the moment has come."
Armitage likewise said Bush hadn't decided to go to war.
But Armitage warned, "Today, right now, time is running out. Our other options are just about exhausted at this point."
"There is no sign, there is not one sign that the (Iraqi) regime has any intent to comply fully with the terms of Resolution 1441," which gave Iraq a final chance to disarm, Armitage said.
Senior administration officials have concluded that without Iraq's full cooperation, weapons inspections are a waste of time.
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix ended two days of negotiations with Iraq on Monday by saying Baghdad had agreed to a series of "positive steps" to enhance cooperation, but he also said Iraq still wasn't cooperating "pro-actively" as much as inspectors would like.
Armitage's speech was at the U.S. Institute of Peace, a government-funded research center. Its selection was meant to underscore that the Bush administration sees war as a last resort. At the same time, Armitage's words and the 32-page document made clear the Bush administration's disgust with Saddam's regime.
In one gruesome example, the document cites British media reports on how the regime stored the bodies of dead children until enough were accumulated to hold stage-managed "funerals," where the deaths were blamed on the sanctions. Those "funerals" got wide international media coverage.
"The point is that if you are hanging your hopes on Saddam Hussein's voluntary willingness to comply and the veracity of his regime, you are engaging in some very dangerous wishful thinking," Armitage said.
"We've seen this before," Armitage said of the recent discovery of 16 artillery shells capable of carrying chemical weapons and Iraq's pledge Monday of new cooperation with the inspections. He called it "evasion rather than active cooperation, no actual weapons destroyed, and then promises made in the face of danger only to be abandoned when the pressure is off."
Meanwhile, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, one of the most influential Democrats, urged Bush to hold his fire and let the weapons inspections proceed. Kennedy voted against last fall's congressional resolution authorizing force against Iraq.
"As long as United Nations inspectors are on the ground and have access to suspected weapons sites, there is no sound reason to rush to pull the trigger of war," he said in a speech at the National Press Club.
Kennedy accused Bush of squandering international good will "because we seemed so intent on immediate, unilateral war with Iraq." He said attacking Iraq would antagonize allies, "feed a rising tide of anti-Americanism overseas and swell the ranks of al-Qaida recruits and sympathizers."
"This is the wrong war at the wrong time," he said.
Asked how long the inspections should continue, Kennedy said, "I would not set a time frame. The inspections are working. Let them continue to work."
(Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondent James Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.)
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): Bush, Kennedy
GRAPHIC (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): 20030121 Iraq timetable,