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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Congress Approves Use of Force

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Congress gave President George W. Bush the go-ahead on Friday for a possible war with Iraq as American planners worked on how U.S.-led coalition forces might transfer power to Iraqi civilians for a democratic transition in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

Despite the strong congressional authorization for military action against Iraq, Washington faced demands at the United Nations for compromises on its stand over Iraq, which U.S. and UN officials expect to happen next week.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan believes most UN members prefer a French approach of two resolutions rather than one to approve the use of force as the United States wants.

"I think the member-states want a two-stage approach: Send in the inspectors. If they get into trouble, if it fails, come back and we will pass a second resolution," Annan said.

Handing Bush a major victory, the Democratic-led Senate voted 77-23 for a war powers resolution negotiated between the White House and congressional leaders backing possible use of force to rid Iraq of suspected weapons of mass destruction and possibly oust Saddam. The Republican-led House passed it by a vote of 296-133 on Thursday.

Talk of postwar planning emerged in the wake of the large bipartisan vote.

"It is the administration's intention, along with those of our allies and the international community, that if military force is used in Iraq, Saddam Hussein is removed, that Iraq not fall apart, for humanitarian reasons and for the stability of the region," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

"And so the administration is working to find ways to help achieve stability for Iraq and for the region. And we are considering a variety of ways to do so with our international partners, with the possibility of the United Nations, the possible role of U.S. civil affairs units," he said.

Iraq has declared defiantly it is ready to repel attack.

Warplanes from the U.S.-British coalition enforcing no-fly zones in Iraq struck a missile site southeast of Baghdad on Friday after what the Pentagon called stepped-up challenges from Saddam.

The Pentagon said Iraqi gunners had fired on coalition aircraft policing the zones 122 times since Saddam offered on Sept. 16 to let UN weapons inspectors return to his country, a sharply higher rate than usual.

"If there was ever a case of 'watch what he does, not what he says,' this is it," Defense Department spokeswoman Victoria Clarke told reporters before showing gun camera video of Iraqi launchers and radar being bombed. In Baghdad, an Iraqi military spokesman said the latest raid was on "civilian installations," a frequent Iraqi claim after such incidents.

The United Nations sent arms experts to Iraq to destroy its weapons of mass destruction after U.S.-led forces expelled the Iraqis from Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War. The inspectors left Iraq in 1998 before a U.S.-British air assault to punish Baghdad for not cooperating with the UN experts.

The United States wants the inspectors to return backed by the threat of force included in a hard-line UN resolution.

Britain is the only other member of the "Big Five" in the 15-nation Security Council to support the line taken by Bush, whose avowed aim of "regime change" in Iraq means toppling Saddam by force if necessary.

The Security Council is expected to hold an open debate on Iraq this week -- perhaps before considering the new resolution that Washington wants.

Political and diplomatic analysts said the congressional vote could make it easier for Bush to wrest a similar mandate from the United Nations, convincing many nations that war was inevitable. "It will put pressure on the Security Council," said Mustafa Alani, a London-based Iraqi researcher.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, whose country said last month that UN arms inspectors could return but opposes any new guidelines for their work, said in Lebanon during a tour of Arab states to rally support that Baghdad was braced for war after the U.S. congressional vote.