Saddam Hussein won't retreat from Kuwait until Congress quits second-quessing President Bush and endorses use of force after Jan. 15, says Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

And he says that's not just his opinion. European and Israeli leaders told him the same in a trip he just took to the North Atlantic Assembly - the parliamentary arm of NATO - and Israel."If Congress would pass a resolution supporting force after the Jan. 15 (withdrawal) deadline (set by the United Nations), it would be the only way to avoid war. It's the only way Saddam will believe we're serious," Hatch told the Deseret News Thursday.

His comments came after Saddam had praised Congress saying it "feels deeply its responsibility" for "not rushing into war." Democratic leaders have said they see no reason to meet soon to debate a resolution endorsing force, although Republican leaders have called for it.

Saddam's statement infuriated Hatch, who said Saddam should indeed be happy "at least with the Democrats in Congress. They're playing his tune."

He added, "They're doing everything to undercut President Bush. That has to be pleasing to Saddam. It gives him the leverage he needs to keep playing games."

Hatch said the view of most officials he met with on a trip for the Senate Intelligence Committee agreed that "the sanctions aren't hurting because Saddam doesn't care about the suffering of the common man."

He adds that most European and Israeli officials feel sanctions won't even pinch him militarily for another nine to 12 months, and then not much because of supplies smuggled through Jordan and Syria.

Hatch said the officials also generally feel "the longer that Saddam defies America, the stronger he grows as a hero of the Arabs."

So the main way to convince Saddam to withdraw would be unified support of force if necessary, he says.

"I don't want a war either. But the best way to avoid war is to be willing to go to war," Hatch said.

"I'm afraid much of what Democrats are doing is for political, partisan advantage and will affect the lives of the young people we have in Saudi Arabia. I fear we will lose more of them than we would otherwise."

Hatch was especially critical of a suit by Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, and 53 other Democrats seeking an injunction preventing Bush from launching offensive action without congressional approval. "I feel that suit is just to embarrass the president."