Bush threatened nations that did not back Iraq war: report
In a private conversation at his Texas ranch in early 2003, President Bush said he was committed to invading Iraq whether or not the United Nations passed another resolution condemning Saddam Hussein, a Spanish Language newspaper reported Wednesday.
"Saddam Husein will not change and will continue playing; the moment has arrived for undoing of him," Bush told Spain's then-Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar on February 22, 2003, according to transcript of Bush's remarks that was posted on the Web site of El Pais, Spain's largest daily. (The quote was automatically translated from Spanish to English using Google.)
Bush said he would prefer to have a second UN resolution, but in his conversation, he makes clear that he would not hesitate to act without one, El Pais reported.
"We have to get rid of Saddam. There are two weeks left. In two weeks we will be ready militarily. We will be in Baghdad at the end of March," Bush said less than a month before bombs began falling on Baghdad.
The US invaded Iraq March 20, 2003. More than 150,000 US troops remain stationed in the country.
Although Aznar was a supporter of Bush's invasion, his successor Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero withdrew the 1,300 Spanish troops that were in Iraq in late April 2004, soon after his election.
Bush also threatened nations with retaliation if they did not vote for a UN resolution backing the Iraq war, according to a the transcript. Nations like Mexico, Angola, Chile and Cameroon must know that the security of the United States is at stake, the president tells Aznar.
The left-wing El Pais reported that Bush threatened to pull financial aid from Angola and warned that a free-trade agreement with Chile might be delayed in the Senate if they did not back another UN resolution.
The confidential transcript was prepared by Spain's ambassador to the United States at the time, Javier Ruperez, the paper said.
Prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq, Washington unsuccessfully lobbied the 15 members of the UN Security Council for a second resolution paving the way for military action against Iraq if Saddam Hussein failed to comply with demands to disarm.
Victory would come "without destruction", he added.
The meeting between Aznar and Bush came just days after a massive protest in Madrid by more than a million people against the invasion which Aznar's conservative government backed.
Aznar tells Bush in the transcript that he needed Washington's help to get Spanish public opinion behind the invasion. He adds that he is worried by Bush's optimism.
"I am optimistic because I believe I am right. I am at peace with myself," Bush responded.
AFP contributed to this report