The Bush administration insisted Sunday that the U.S. military can simultaneously fight terrorism and confront Iraq, as White House officials said Congress and the United Nations must act quickly to show resolve against Saddam Hussein.
Members of Congress, however, were split on whether it was wise to act within four weeks on an undefined resolution about Iraq, as Secretary of State Colin Powell called for. There were signs of a possible stalemate before the midterm congressional elections in November.
"We don't know what this administration wants to do," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said Sunday in a broadcast interview. He said President Bush had yet to ask for a resolution on Iraq. But Mr. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said: "Obviously, it is up to the Congress to offer resolutions, not to the administration."
Several leading lawmakers made clear they will consider such resolutions on their own timetable.
Daschle was noncommittal on whether Congress could pass such a resolution before Election Day, saying only that it was possible. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said it would help Mr. Bush if Congress acted before its planned mid-October recess.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said he agreed with that timetable, but added that the resolution should not necessarily authorize force against Iraq.
He said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that he preferred "something that could get 100-to-nothing vote, something that says to the United Nations, look, we are really serious about this and we're all behind the effort to try to seek a consensus on dealing with Saddam Hussein."
On the diplomatic front, Powell said he hoped that intensive work on drafting a resolution for the Security Council could begin by the end of this week. He was optimistic about a vote by the Security Council within a few weeks.
The measure should give the Iraqi president "a matter of weeks" to comply with long-standing U.N. resolutions on his weapons program, Powell said.
He met with council members last week to win support for a tough resolution and planned to return to New York on Monday to resume the effort.
Powell and Rice declined to answer other specific questions about what should be in the resolution. But both said that new resolutions would not permit any negotiations with Saddam.
"The time for Iraq to respond was years ago," Powell said.
Some lawmakers, including Daschle, D-S.D., have questioned whether war with Iraq would undermine the hunt for al Qaeda terrorists behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
"We fully believe that the United States is capable of conducing the war on terrorism and dealing with other threats," Rice said. "We don't believe there are limits on what we can do in the war on terrorism and dealing with a major threat of weapons of mass destruction."
But Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., said Saddam is "not one of the primary threats to the United States."
Pointing to the arrests of five men who allegedly belonged to a terror cell near Buffalo, N.Y., Graham said, "What worries me is that I think the war on terrorism has bogged down."
"Why were those five people arrested in Buffalo? Primarily because we had evidence that they had been at an al Qaeda training camp in 2001," said Graham, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Those camps, in my judgment, are the real threat to the United States security, and that's what I think our priority ought to be, in terms of protecting the people America, is taking them out."
Graham also said Mr. Bush should warn Iran, just as he has warned Iraq, against helping terrorists.
He echoed administration fears that Iran is tied to the terror group Hezbollah — "the A Team of international terrorism," Graham said.
As the debate heated up in Washington, top U.S. officials continued to press their case for tough action against Iraq for its violation of U.N. resolutions, and said they were pleased with the initial reaction of world leaders.
Powell said he had spoken with dozens of world leaders since U.S. Mr. Bush urged the United Nations to get tough with Baghdad — or the United States would act on its own.
"I got good responses from all the people I talked to," Powell told reporters Sunday. "We had a very good dialogue and I'm pleased with the initial reactions from friends and colleagues in Europe and elsewhere in the world."
Powell said the United States would give other countries a few days to consider Mr. Bush's call for tough action to enforce 16 earlier Security Council resolutions, but hoped to begin crafting fresh measures by the end of this week.
Work on new U.N. Security Council resolutions should be completed within a matter of "weeks, not months," including a short timetable for compliance by Saddam, Powell said during a broadcast interview.
"Saddam knows what he has to do. It's been out there for years," he added.
Washington has picked up support for giving Iraq a deadline for readmitting U.N. arms inspectors, but Baghdad has given no sign it would yield to world pressure to comply.
Many nations, particularly in the Arab world, hope Iraq will readmit the inspectors and avert a U.S.-led attack.
On Sunday the Saudi foreign minister said in a broadcast interview that the kingdom would be "obliged to follow through" if the United States needed bases in the kingdom to attack Iraq under U.N. authority.
The comments by Prince Saud al-Faisal would mark a dramatic change in Saudi policy. In an interview last month, Saud declared that U.S. facilities in the desert kingdom would be off limits for an attack on Iraq.
When asked specifically if Saudi bases would be available to Washington, Saud said: "Everybody is obliged to follow through."
The remote Prince Sultan Air Base south of Riyadh hosts most of the 5,000 U.S. troops based in Saudi Arabia.