WASHINGTON - President Bush said yesterday that he disagreed with the millions of antiwar protesters who turned out in 300 cities worldwide over the weekend, and he promised to press the United Nations Security Council to pass a new resolution intended to authorize war with Iraq.
"I respectfully disagree" with those who "don't view Saddam Hussein as a threat," Bush said at the White House after a swearing-in ceremony for William H. Donaldson, the new chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. "We are working with our friends and allies to see if we can get a second resolution."
In his first public comments on the protests, Bush said, "Democracy is a beautiful thing, and ... people are allowed to express their opinions." But allowing the protesters to influence him, he said, would be "like saying I'm going to decide policy based upon a focus group."
"The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon the security of the people," Bush said.
American officials said a new Security Council resolution was likely to be introduced this week, as early as today.
British and American officials are debating the language; the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John D. Negroponte, and his British counterpart, Jeremy Greenstock, began meeting Monday to work out the timing and content. Britain and the United States intend to wait at least until the end of a U.N. debate on Iraq so as not to seem to be ignoring the views expressed there. At least 50 countries, mostly developing nations opposed to war with Iraq, have asked to speak.
Given certain opposition from France and Germany, the resolution is likely to be a simple restatement of key passages in the resolution of Nov. 8, No. 1441, which authorized renewed inspections in Iraq. It declared Iraq to be in "material breach" of previous resolutions and warned of "serious consequences" if Hussein's government did not take this "final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations."
Yesterday afternoon, the chief White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said the new measure would be a "relatively simple resolution, not very lengthy."
Still, the president of France, Jacques Chirac, the most implacable opponent of war, said Monday that "there is no need for a second resolution on Tuesday, which France would have no choice but to oppose." But he and France's prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, stopped short of saying that they would exercise France's veto on the Security Council.
At the White House, Fleischer asserted that the American position on Iraq enjoyed wide support across Europe. "When you look at Europe, with a few exceptions - Germany and France, more notably - Europe stands united, shoulder to shoulder with the U.S.," he said.
A Security Council diplomat said he believed that any British-American resolution on Iraq would be "hard to negotiate; I think it will take to the end of this month." By then, Britain and the United States are expected to have a force of 200,000 in the Persian Gulf region, poised to strike Iraq.
British officials have made it clear that they want a second resolution authorizing war, particularly because public opinion in their country runs strongly against war. Bush, on the other hand, made it clear yesterday that he could take or leave a new resolution.
While Washington is working with London on drafting the new resolution, the president said of the measure, "It's not necessary, as far as I am concerned." The White House has long asserted that resolution 1441 gives the United States the authority to attack Iraq if Iraq does not disarm voluntarily.
Bush suggested again that his patience with Hussein had run out. Setting a new deadline for disarmament would be like offering "another last chance."
"He knows my feelings, and that is, he needs to disarm - completely and totally disarm. He's a fellow that likes to buy time, and buy it through deception and delay," Bush said.
In Baghdad, the spokesman for the U.N. weapons inspectors expressed frustration at the conditions that Iraqi scientists and engineers have insisted on before they will agree to be interviewed.
Only three scientists have been interviewed, according to the inspectors' spokesman, Hiro Ueki. "Subsequent Iraqi individuals who have been sought for private interviews insisted on having the interview tape-recorded," he said. The inspectors refused to accept that condition, he said, "because we need to ensure that these private interviews are credible and the confidentiality of the information is maintained."
By that, he seemed to mean that the inspectors did not want their questions caught on tape and passed to the Iraqi leadership.
Iraqi officials reported that U.N. inspectors visited at least eight military and industrial sites yesterday.