Bush: 'No neutral ground'

UNITED NATIONS -- President Bush told members of the United Nations' General Assembly on Tuesday that there is "no neutral ground" in the war on terrorism.

"All governments that support terror are complicit in a war against civilization. No government should ignore the threat of terror, because to look the other way gives terrorists the chance to regroup, and recruit, and prepare. And all nations that fight terror, as if the lives of their own people depend on it, will earn the favorable judgment of history," Bush said.

Bush said the former regimes of Afghanistan and Iraq chose to side with, and encourage terrorists, so they were replaced with independent leaders.

"Our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq were supported by many governments, and America is grateful to each one. I also recognize that some of the sovereign nations of this assembly disagreed with our actions," Bush said. " Yet there was, and there remains, unity among us on the fundamental principles and objectives of the United Nations."

Bush said the United States was seeking a new Security Council resolution that would expand the U.N. role in Iraq and said the world body had an important role to play in helping Iraq achieve self-rule.

"Iraq's new leaders are showing the openness and tolerance that democracy requires, and also the courage. Yet every young democracy needs the help of friends," Bush said. "Now the nation of Iraq needs and deserves our aid, and all nations of good will should step forward and provide that support."

Annan's comments

Earlier, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan delivered an implicit rebuke of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq on Tuesday but urged U.N. members to assist in the country's reconstruction.

"Whatever view each of us may take of the events of recent months, it is vital for all of us that the outcome is a stable and democratic Iraq," Annan said in remarks to the opening of the U.N. General Assembly's plenary session.

Annan criticized states that argued for "the right and obligation to use force pre-emptively" to head off perceived threats, but he urged the Security Council to figure out how to deal with similar questions in the future.

"This logic represents a fundamental challenge to the principles on which, however imperfectly, world peace and stability have rested for the last 58 years," Annan told the General Assembly. "My concern is that, if it were adopted, it could set precedents that resulted in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without credible justification."

The United States and its allies sought explicit Security Council authorization to use force against Iraq, warning that Baghdad was defying U.N. resolutions demanding it give up chemical and biological weapons, long-range missiles and efforts to develop a nuclear bomb.

The Bush administration argued those weapons could be provided to terrorists. But the Security Council was unable to reach a consensus on the matter, and a U.S.-led army invaded Iraq in March without the blessing of the United Nations.

"The council needs to consider how it will deal with the possibility that individual states may use force pre-emptively against perceive threats," Annan said. "Its members may need to begin a discussion on the criteria for an early authorization of coercive measures to address certain types of threats -- for instance, terrorist groups armed with weapons of mass destruction."

Annan also announced the establishment of a high-level panel to review the U.N. structure with an eye toward improving its response to security threats and "other global challenges." The panel will be charged with reporting back to Annan within a year.

"I believe the time is ripe for a hard look at fundamental policy issues and the structural changes that may be needed to in order to address them," he said. "History is harsh judge. It will not forgive us if we let this moment pass."

After his speech, Bush plans to hold bilateral meetings with several world leaders, including French President Jacques Chirac, who has sharply criticized the administration's Iraq policy. He also plans to meet Tuesday with the leaders of Spain, Indonesia and Afghanistan, and Morocco. He is to meet Wednesday with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, another staunch critic of his Iraq policy.

France says it wants the coalition to turn over control to the Iraqi people in six to nine months.

Chirac suggested in a New York Times interview Monday that France might abstain from voting on a resolution lacking a timetable but not veto it.

"The French will have to make their own determination," Rice said when asked about the possible abstention.

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