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Powell: Bush to Deliver 'Ultimatum' to Saddam Hussein - 2003-03-17

Secretary of State Colin Powell says President Bush, in his upcoming address, will issue an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to step down from power and leave Iraq or face U.S.-led military action. Mr. Powell says the time for diplomacy in the Iraq crisis has passed.

Mr. Powell says the ultimatum to be delivered by the President will apply to Saddam Hussein and others in the ruling circle in Baghdad, including family members in key military command positions.

He gave no time frame for them to comply with the U.S. demand, but made clear that it would be brief and that there is no longer any time for further delaying tactics by the Iraqi leader on disarmament. "In his speech, he clearly will issue an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein that the only way to avoid the serious consequences that were built into (U.N.) Resolution 1441 is for Saddam Hussein and his immediate cohort to leave the country, and to allow this matter to be resolved through the peaceful entry of force and not a conflict," said Mr. Powell.

The secretary of state said last November's U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 gives ample legal authority for the use of force against Iraq, and that the United States sought a second resolution only to provide political help to U.S. allies.

He said the decision to withdraw the second measure, in the face of a veto threat by France, followed a round of consultations with co-sponsors Britain and Spain, and others. "It became clear that it would be best at this time to withdraw the resolution," said Mr. Powell, "and I can think of nothing that Saddam Hussein can do diplomatically. I think that time is now over. He has had his chance. He has had many chances over the last 12 years, and he has blown every one of those chances."

Mr. Powell said the failure to enforce the resolution it approved unanimously in November was clearly a "test" the Security Council "did not meet." But he said the United Nations will survive as an institution and the United States will continue to play an important role in it.

Mr. Powell has been on the phone with leaders around the world, explaining the decision to pull back the measure and previewing the President's address.

He said he has spoken in recent hours to, among others, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Pakistani Prime Minister Pervez Musharaf and his foreign minister counterparts from Russia, China, France and Japan.

Secretary Powell also said the United States is in close touch with Turkey, despite its parliament's decision not to allow American troops to use Turkey as a base for Iraq operations, and that it has assured Ankara of the U.S. commitment to Iraq's territorial integrity.

Turkey is concerned that a war might produce an uprising by Iraqi Kurds in northern Iraq including an attempt to create a separate state.