Nobel Peace laureate former US president Jimmy Carter said he would have opposed the congressional resolution that authorized President George W. Bush to go to war against Iraq.
Carter said he saw signs of change in the Bush administration, but added that he would have voted "no" on the resolution allowing Bush to order "necessary and appropriate" force against Iraq if the United Nations fails to disarm Saddam.
The US Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution earlier Friday authorizing
Bush to attack, hours after the House of Representatives passed
"I think there is no way that we can avoid the obligation to work through the United Nations Security Council," Carter told CNN television.
He said the United States should force Saddam Hussein, through the United Nations "to comply completely with inspections of an unlimited nature and to make sure we destroy all his weapons of mass destruction and his ability to produce nuclear weapons in the future."
The 78-year-old Carter went on: "I think it ought to be done through the United Nations, not unilaterally."
But Carter also said he had detected moves by the administration toward UN-sponsored measures.
"The administration has come a long way in the last few weeks," he said. "It's very significant that President Bush's statement the other night ... calls for dealing with the United Nations, calls for inspections as a primary priority, and acting with other countries."
He added: "I do think that in every way before we go into a war of any kind we should exhaust all other alternatives including negotiation, mediation or, if that's not possible in the case of Iraq, working through the United Nations."
The White House declined to comment on the award which saw other criticism made of Bush's Iraq policy. Bush simply congratulated Carter in a two-minute phone call, a spokesman said.
The State Department said it did not expect Carter's comments to damage its diplomatic drive for a new UN resolution. Nor did it comment on the comments by the Nobel committee.
"We think President Carter richly deserves the honor for his efforts and don't think there's anything more to do than to say that we respect that," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
Carter, a one-time peanut farmer who was president from 1977 to 1981, is the third US leader after Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
In a statement, he highlighted the role played by his wife, Rosalynn, and the Carter Center in promoting peace.
"During the past two decades, as Rosalynn and I traveled around the world for the work of our center, my concept of human rights has grown to include not only the rights to live in peace, but also to adequate health care, shelter, food, and to economic opportunity," he said.
"I hope this award reflects a universal acceptance and even embrace of this broad-based concept of human rights," Carter said.
Carter said his most significant work had come since standing down as president in visits to troublespots and the world's poorest countries.
Carter went to North Korea in 1994 to ease a standoff with the United States over North Korea's suspected nuclear weapons development.
He tried to jump-start the peace process in Bosnia-Hercegovina, cobbling together a four-month ceasefire starting in January 1995.
In May he became the most prominent American to visit Fidel Castro in Cuba. His trip, which centered on talks on human rights and US sanctions, was frowned upon by the Bush administration.
He has also served as a mediator in Haiti and Sudan, and participated in election monitoring in Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and East Timor, among other countries.
Carter and ex-Costa Rican president Miguel Angel Rodriguez will lead a team of international observers to Jamaica's general elections Wednesday.
Copyright 2002 AFP