A U.S. Marine with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit waited yesterday in an LAV-25 (Light Armored Vehicle) in the Kuwaiti desert near the Iraqi border.

Countdown to War

Saddam stays put

By David Espo
Associated Press

In a break with longtime allies, President Bush jettisoned diplomacy yesterday and demanded that Saddam Hussein surrender power or face a military attack. The Iraqi leader showed no signs of compliance.

The U.N. "Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours," Bush said in a nationwide address, hours after a decision to withdraw a U.N. resolution that appeared headed for rejection.

"Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing."

While France, Germany and Russia made clear their continued opposition to war, and Canada said its troops would not participate, there were abundant signs that hostilities were imminent.

A U.S.-led force of more than 250,000 troops, roughly 1,000 combat aircraft and a naval fleet is in place in the Persian Gulf region, ready to attack Iraq on Bush's orders.

Embassies were shuttered in Baghdad, and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan ordered international weapons inspectors and aid workers out of the country for their own safety. Israeli authorities cautioned residents to "complete their acquisition" of materials needed to create sealed spaces -- protection against possible missile attacks from Iraq.

"Those of us who have questioned the administration's approach ... will now be rallying behind the men and women of our armed forces," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., a strong critic of Bush's handling of the Iraq issue.

Bush gave Saddam and his two sons 48 hours to leave Iraq and said if they cling to power, war would commence "at the time of our choosing." It was a phrase reminiscent of his statement 18 months ago when he vowed victory over those responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

He briefed congressional leaders at the White House on his plans, and aides circulated word that shortly after the onset of hostilities, the administration would ask lawmakers for up to $90 billion to pay for the war.

For his part, Saddam projected defiance.

In comments relayed by the country's news agency, he said invading troops would find Iraqis "behind every rock and tree," ready to become martyrs for their country.

He also confessed his country once had weapons of mass destruction, but denied still possessing them.

"When Saddam Hussein says he has no weapons of mass destruction, he means what he says," the Iraqi leader was quoted as saying in a meeting with a Tunisian diplomat.

Rather than leaving the country, Saddam "will stay in place like a solid rock," Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said in an interview with the Arabic satellite television station Al Jazeera.

Around the world, countries were choosing sides.

Canada announced it would not join a war that lacks authorization by the Security Council. But Australia and Poland said their troops would participate, and officials in Ankara said Parliament might review its earlier refusal to permit the basing of American troops on Turkish soil.

On a day of fast-paced events, Britain's ambassador to the United Nations said his country, the United States and Spain were withdrawing a resolution that would have given Iraq an ultimatum to withdraw swiftly or face attack. They did so because France made clear it would veto any ultimatum "no matter what the circumstances," said Jeremy Greenstock.

While Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar decided not to seek a vote at the United Nations, there were diplomatic and political repercussions.

Robin Cook, a senior Cabinet member and former British foreign secretary, resigned in protest from Blair's government. The British leader has tumbled in public opinion polls at home in recent weeks over his handling of the Iraqi situation.

State Secretary Colin Powell blistered France, saying it had attempted to weaken a U.N. inspection system five years ago. Still, he said, there was no question France knew when it voted in November for an earlier resolution calling for "serious consequences" that it meant force to disarm Iraq.

The French ambassador to the United Nations, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, had a different view. He said that in one-on-one consultations in the past hours, "the majority of the council confirmed they do not want a use of force."

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin ended weeks of silence on the issue, saying his country was "for solving the problem exclusively by peaceful means. ... Any other development would be a mistake," he added.

The decision to withdraw the resolution marked a diplomatic failure for the United States, and an about-face for Bush personally. At a news conference 10 days ago, the president said he would call for a vote at the Security Council, no matter what the outcome.

But more than a week of intense diplomatic efforts evidently failed to sway enough votes, and in the end, officials decided they were in a better position not to have a vote, and rest their case on the resolution approved unanimously in November.


Ordnancemen Cpl Eric C. Hogue from Okeechobee, Fla., left, and Lance Cpl Terry J. Depiero from New York load a bomb onto an F/A-18 on the flight deck of the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier today. The Truman and its battle group are on deployment in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in preparation for a war with Iraq.

Saddam stays put

The U.S. calls refusing to go
'Saddam's final mistake'

Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq >> Iraq's leadership rejected the U.S. ultimatum today that Saddam Hussein and his sons leave Iraq or face war. The White House called the rejection "Saddam's final mistake."

A defiant Saddam appeared tonight on Iraqi television in military uniform, in what appeared to signal his role as defender of the nation. Saddam last appeared in a military uniform after the 1991 Gulf War.

Iraqi television and state radio called on Iraqis to demonstrate across the country to show their support for Saddam.

Al-Shabab television, an Iraqi station owned by Saddam's son Odai, said the decision to defy President Bush's ultimatum was made in a joint meeting of the Revolution Command Council -- Iraq's highest executive body -- and the leadership of the ruling Baath party. Saddam chaired the session.

A statement read by the announcer said the meeting condemned the ultimatum Bush issued in Washington last night.

In Baghdad, meanwhile, people mobbed bakeries and gas stations in a frantic rush for supplies. At Saddam International Airport, hundreds of passengers snatched up tickets to Jordan and Syria -- the only destinations available today.

U.N. weapons inspectors flew out of Iraq today. The diplomatic exodus continued, with ambassadors from Greece and France taking the overland road to Jordan. Diplomats from China, Germany and the Czech Republic left earlier in the week.

Odai Hussein said Bush was "unstable" and that the U.S. leader "should give up power in America with his family." He also warned that a U.S.-led attack will force Iraq to broaden the war against the United States.

Bush is ready to order a massive military strike against Iraq if Saddam refuses to surrender power by a deadline of 3 p.m. Hawaii time tomorrow.

Asked about Iraq's rejection of Bush's ultimatum, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said today that "Iraq has made a series of mistakes, including arming themselves with weapons of mass destruction that have brought this crisis upon itself.

"This is the latest mistake Iraq could make. It would be Saddam's final mistake," Fleischer said. "The president still hopes he will take the ultimatum seriously and leave the country."

But Fleischer would not rule out a U.S. attack before Bush's 48-hour clock ran out if the Iraqi leader rejects the exile offer. "Saddam Hussein has to figure out what this means," he said.

Bush was spending the day in a White House protected by increased security measures, calling allies and trying to recruit partners for the war. He also met with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, as he has each day.

Bush, in a prime-time speech last night, vowed to strike Iraq with "the full force and might" of the U.S. military unless Saddam and his two sons leave Iraq within 48 hours. More than 250,000 American forces are poised for action in the Persian Gulf. "The tyrant will soon be gone," the president pledged

Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle charged that a collapse of the administration's diplomatic efforts had brought an unneeded war.

"I'm saddened, saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war," Daschle said in a speech to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "Saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country."

Bush likened the Iraq threat to those posed by perpetrators of genocide in the last century. "In this century, when evil men plot chemical, biological and nuclear terror, a policy of appeasement could bring destruction of a kind never before seen on this earth," he said.

"Responding to such enemies only after they have struck first is not self-defense, it is suicide," Bush said. "The security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now."

Having abandoned diplomacy at the stubbornly divided U.N. Security Council, Bush set about trying to win over an equally divided American public. A CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll found Americans just about evenly split on whether the United States should unleash military action without a new U.N. vote. Forty-seven percent supported such an action and 50 percent opposed it.

Bush often says that Iraq seeks to help "al-Qaida-type" groups, but last night he went a step further, saying Iraq has "aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al Qaida."

The president gave Saddam 48 hours, starting at 8 p.m. EST yesterday, to leave his country or face "military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing." He warned weapons inspectors and journalists to leave Iraq immediately.

Bush also cautioned Americans that war could result in domestic terror attacks, and the government raised the terror alert status to its second-highest level, orange, after he spoke. Security was visibly tightened around the White House.

"These attacks are not inevitable. They are, however, possible, and this very fact underscores the reason we cannot live under the threat of blackmail," Bush said. "The terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed."

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