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Friday, September 13, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Editorial

Indicted: the U.N.'s relevance on Iraq

President Bush did not make a case for the United States taking on Iraq alone, but he issued a powerful indictment of the United Nations in a speech yesterday before the General Assembly.

If the president is steering the U.S. toward war by his signature as commander-in-chief, he still needs to convince Congress and the American people of the threat Saddam Hussein represents.

His critics at home say he needs to enlist the help of our allies and the international community to confront the Iraqi dictator.

He responded with a detour to the U.N., and a delivered a bluntly worded address to a mostly silent audience.

He leaned hardest on the Security Council whose approval or veto is key. Bush said the council was specifically created so deliberations would be more than talk and resolutions more than wishes.

The president then laid out a decade of U.N. resolutions Iraq has ignored through the years.

If the president's speech was short on particulars and certainty about the state of Iraq's arsenal, he detailed a list of the U.N.'s own concerns and directives that had been ignored.

Bush is clomping at the bit to go to war. The president said the U.S. was ready to confront "a grave and gathering danger" alone if others would not.

America's friends and expedient allies are frightened by the Bush administration's willingness to engage in a self-defined, pre-emptive strike. Reluctant governments that would avoid or condemn the U.S. for acting alone, might well join Bush if he seeks and secures international support.

Next door, Canada's government released an audible sigh after yesterday's commitment to involve the U.N.

Bush was strong, forthright and wholly appropriate in confronting the U.N. with its timid record on Iraq. The audience was silenced not by his rebuke but by the uneasy truth of Bush's challenge to the organization's relevance in a dangerous world.

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