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Bush Gives Saddam 48 Hours to Leave His Country - 2003-03-18

President Bush has given Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave his country or face military action. President Bush says the only way the Iraqi leader can avoid conflict is to give-up power by Wednesday. "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," he said. "For their own safety, all foreign nationals including journalists and inspectors should leave Iraq immediately."

The president abandoned diplomacy Monday and decided not to press for a U.N. vote on a resolution against Iraq in the face of a threatened French veto.

After more than a dozen resolutions and hundreds of weapons inspections, President Bush says the world's good faith has not been returned because Iraq has used diplomacy as a ploy to gain time and advantage.

France, Russia, and China opposed the new resolution because they want to give weapons inspectors more time. The president's ultimatum Monday made clear there will be no more time for inspections. He says the Security Council has not lived-up to its responsibilities, so the United States and its allies will enforce what he calls "the just demands of the world."

Mr. Bush says the United States has the "sovereign authority" to use force to protect its national security; in this case, to prevent Iraq from helping terrorists use weapons of mass destruction.

The president again appealed directly to the Iraqi people, telling them that the United States will help them rebuild from a conflict, which now appears just days away. He says U.S. troops will deliver food and medicine, and U.S. diplomats will help Iraqi's rebuild a country that Mr. Bush says will be "prosperous and free."

"The tyrant will soon be gone," said Mr. Bush. "The day of your liberation is near. It is too late for Saddam Hussein to remain in power. It is not too late for the Iraqi military to act with honor and protect your country by permitting the peaceful entry of coalition forces to eliminate weapons of mass destruction."

President Bush encouraged Iraqi soldiers to surrender to U.S. troops, telling them they should not fight for a dying regime that is not worth their own life. "In any conflict, your fate will depend on your action. Do not destroy oil wells, a source of wealth that belongs to the Iraqi people. Do not obey any command to use weapons of mass destruction against anyone, including the Iraqi people," he said. "War crimes will be prosecuted. War criminals will be punished. And it will be no defense to say, "I was just following orders.""

Many Americans fear war in Iraq will increase the risk of terrorist attacks in the United States. President Bush Monday tried to ease some of those fears by saying the government is on "heightened watch" with increased patrols of major air and seaports. He said the terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment Saddam Hussein is disarmed.