WASHINGTON -- President Bush sought anew Saturday to persuade skeptical allies that Saddam Hussein must be confronted over weapons of mass destruction, saying the United Nations' credibility is at stake and the Iraqi leader is "dangerous to America and the world."
At the same time, he warned he would not wait long before proceeding against Iraq even without the world body's support.
"The United States, along with a growing coalition of nations, will take whatever action is necessary to defend ourselves and disarm the Iraqi regime," Bush said in his weekly radio address.
The speech represented a condensed, though almost word-for-word, repeat of remarks the president delivered Thursday. It was part of an aggressive White House campaign to win over world leaders still reluctant to use military force against Iraq and insistent that war be waged only with U.N. backing.
A majority of the 15 Security Council members are in favor of relying on U.N. weapons inspectors to try to disarm Iraq of the nuclear, biological and chemical weapons capabilities Bush says it has or is seeking.
Almost every day will see an appearance from either the president or a top administration official, with each one ever-so-slightly closing an already narrow window for U.N. diplomacy, officials said.
After courting French President Jacques Chirac and Chinese President Jiang Zemin by phone on Friday, Bush scheduled an additional round of calls and meetings next week.
On Monday afternoon, he planned an Oval Office meeting with a key supporter, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, whose country has joined the United States and Britain in a large military buildup in the Persian Gulf in preparation for possible war.
Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice were being dispatched to the Sunday television talk shows to further argue the administration's case.
Along with the steps toward war was an advisory from the State Department that nonessential U.S. diplomats and family members leave Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
It also issued a travel warning urging Americans to leave or stay away from Iraq and said it was closing the Polish office in Baghdad that provided consular service to Americans in the absence of U.S. relations with Iraq. It cautioned against travel to Israel as well.
In his radio address, Bush offered a litany of the administration's evidence against Saddam that Powell had presented in detail to the Security Council on Wednesday.
The list includes accusations, denied by Iraq, that Saddam retains "a vast arsenal" of biological and chemical weapons and delivery systems that he is laboring to conceal from U.N. inspectors and that he has "long-standing, direct and continuing" ties to terrorist networks.
"The Iraqi regime's violations of Security Council resolutions are evident, they are dangerous to America and the world and they continue to this hour," Bush said. "Saddam Hussein was given a final chance. He is throwing away that chance."
It appeared, however, that the president faces an uphill battle.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush impressed upon Jiang the need for the United Nations to prove its mettle and argued that "time was of the essence." Fleischer gave no sign Jiang agreed.
France, which along with China and two other countries has the power to kill any new U.S.-backed U.N. resolution with a veto, is leaving open the use of force as an ultimate option, French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte said Friday. He said France will not decide on a position until after U.N. inspectors now searching Iraq for banned weapons report to the Security Council on Feb. 14.
In Paris, however, Chirac spokeswoman Catherine Colonna said the French president had told Bush "we can disarm Saddam Hussein without going to war." Levitte said 10 or 11 of the 15 council members want to extend inspections rather than use force. And he said "we do not see Iraq as an urgent threat" and the inspectors have put Saddam "in his box."
Osama el-Baz, longtime adviser to President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, said Arab support for any war against Iraq was contingent on the United States first exhausting all other options to change rule in Baghdad and securing international backing.
Nonetheless, American and British diplomats at the United Nations began considering options for a new resolution that might attract the needed votes of support.
One idea being floated would threaten war unless Saddam gave up power or was removed by Iraqis by a certain deadline, diplomats at the Security Council told The Associated Press.
Administration officials said, however, that serious bargaining over the specific language has not begun. The White House plans to force the issue after the Feb. 14 inspectors' report, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.