UNITED NATIONS - Unbending in spite of widespread opposition, President Bush returned to the United Nations on Tuesday to try to marshal support for a deliberate transition to democracy in Iraq.
"Let us move forward," he told those leaders who would have the U.S. occupation ended right away.
A year ago, Bush stood before the U.N. General Assembly and tried to build a case against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Ultimately, he drew only some support from the Security Council and went to war without direct authority.
There were nations with the United States, Bush said in Tuesday's speech, but "some of the sovereign nations of this assembly disagree with our actions."
To try to accommodate them, Bush on Tuesday offered the United Nations a larger role in Iraq's reconstruction. But he did not budge from his plan for step-by-step transformation of Iraq to democracy.
"This process must unfold according to the needs of Iraqis - neither hurried nor delayed by the wishes of other parties," he said.
Couching U.S. policy in Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of countering terrorism, Bush said the world should stand with the people of both countries as they seek freedom and stability.
Bush spoke as negotiations continued behind the scenes on a new U.N. resolution setting terms for the handover of power. So far, U.S. efforts have been stymied by France, Germany and other critics of the U.S. approach.
In Washington, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said he thought Bush "lost an opportunity."
"He came before the international community and he could have made the case for more troops, more resources," the South Dakota Democrat said. "He didn't do that. ... It was a missed opportunity and that's very disappointing."
In his speech, Bush invited the United Nations to play an expanded role in Iraq's reconstruction. The world body should assist in preparing a constitution for Iraq, help train civil servants and conduct free and fair elections, he said.
"Every young democracy needs the help of friends," Bush declared.
The president's address was received politely by the General Assembly audience.
Bush also revived the issue of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction - once cited by the administration as a key reason for the war but given less emphasis lately after none has yet been found.
"The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction. It used those weapons in acts of mass murder, and refused to account for them when confronted by the world," he said.
Bush also appealed for a worldwide drive to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, although he mentioned neither North Korea nor Iran by name -two nations that his administration has accused of trying to build nuclear weapons.
"The deadly combination of outlaw regimes, terror networks and weapons of mass murder is a peril that cannot be ignored or wished away," he said.
In the audience sat Ahmed Chalabi, this month's president of the Iraqi Governing Council, President Jacques Chirac of France and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Schroeder, who opposed the war in the first place and will not contribute peacekeeping troops, told reporters he wanted to see power handed over to the Iraqi people in a "matter of months."
It was Schroeder's most specific comments yet on a timetable and echoed the French position for a swift transfer of power to the Iraqis. Previously, Schroeder had said Berlin would like to see it take place "as quickly as possible."
Bush told world leaders they must stand with the people of Iraq and Afghanistan as they build free and stable countries. "The terrorists and their allies fear and fight this process above all, because free people embrace hope over resentment," he said.
Bush spoke after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticized the president's "pre-emptive" attack on Iraq but urged world leaders Tuesday to set aside their disputes over the war and join forces to build a peaceful democracy in the troubled nation.
The president was not only addressing an international audience, but some of his remarks appeared tailored for domestic consumption. Polls show increased concern on the part of Americans over continued casualties in Iraq and with respect to the mounting costs of reconstruction. These polls also have shown a decline in the president's overall approval ratings.
Bush said that democracy in Iraq could be an inspiration to other countries in the Middle East, just as it had great power to destabilize the region under the overthrown Saddam.
Calling on the Palestinians to follow the course now under way in Iraq, Bush said - in an apparent reference to Yasser Arafat - "the Palestinian cause is betrayed by leaders who cling to power but are feeding old hatreds and destroying the good will of others."
Bush also called on Israel to work to create conditions that will allow a peaceful Palestinian state to emerge.
On other subjects, Bush called for decisive action against HIV-AIDS and to stop the spread of trading in sex slaves. "Governments that tolerate this trade are tolerating a form of slavery," he said.