The United States probably will go to war with Iraq, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman said Sunday, believing the timing uncertain but that force must be used to oust Saddam Hussein.
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., led hearings last week that highlighted both the gravity of the threat posed by the Iraqi president and the difficulty of replacing him with stable leadership.
Other lawmakers, too, spoke supportively of President Bush's goal of removing Saddam. But Democrats in particular said the administration must do far more to convince Americans, allies and Iraq's neighbors that force is necessary. They also said Bush must seek congressional approval if he decides on war.
Biden said it has to be done right - not just militarily but in terms of domestic, congressional and international support. Once the threat is clearly and carefully established, he said, it will be easier to win over the public and U.S. allies, who have been sending Bush clear signals of disapproval.
"I think we should talk less about taking him down and when we're taking him down and how and more about the case," Biden said in a broadcast interview. "What is the threat? What is going to be the impact if we don't stop him? What are the alternatives we have in order to deal with the threat? What will be the cost of each of the alternatives in terms of what we have to do?
"That is responsible, that is a responsible way to go."
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said Congress must weigh in before America goes to war. "I don't think the president has the authority to launch a full-force effort" without congressional approval, said Daschle, D-S.D.
"We all support strongly a regime change," Daschle said in a televised interview. "But I think we have to get our ducks in order. Do we have the support of our allies? Do we have an appropriate plan?"
Biden, citing expert testimony in his committee hearings, said it is clear Iraq has chemical and biological weapons of some sort. Less certain is whether Saddam has the means yet to use them effectively, he said.
"We have no choice but to eliminate the threat," he said. "This is a guy who's an extreme danger to the world."
He said the United States, acting alone if necessary, probably could get Saddam out of power but America would then face a long rebuilding job in Iraq.
"This is very difficult to do by yourself," he said. "There's a lot to do after he's taken down." Biden cited estimates that 75,000 U.S. soldiers might be needed in Iraq for anywhere from 18 months to 20 years.
Like Mr.Bush, Biden brushed off an Iraqi offer to negotiate over the return of weapons inspectors. "I think it's important we push for real inspections," he said, and not negotiate over a faint offer.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who favors a hard line on Saddam, said leaks from the administration have raised questions about whether Bush's advisers are all on board with his tough policy.
"I think we're at a point where it's critically important for the president, as commander in chief, to take hold here," said Lieberman, D-Conn. "He's got obvious disagreement within his administration."
Lieberman said "every day Saddam remains in power with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and the development of nuclear weapons is a day of danger for the United States."
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan plans to consult with the 15 U.N. Security Council members Monday about Iraq's invitation last week for technical talks about weapons inspections. U.N. inspectors have not been in Iraq since 1998.
U.S. newspapers have reported a number of battle plans were under discussion within the administration, ranging from a massive onslaught from three neighboring countries to more concentrated operations to cut off Saddam and neutralize his weapons of mass destruction