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Bush to Address Nation With Expected Ultimatum Aimed at Saddam - 2003-03-17

President Bush is about to deliver an ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, "leave Iraq or face a U.S.-led invasion." Mr. Bush will deliver an address to the nation later Monday.

Hopes for a diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis faded quickly Monday.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer declared the diplomatic window closed. The comment came after the United States, Britain and Spain announced that they will not seek an additional vote in the United Nations Security Council on the use of force against Iraq.

Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters at the State Department that President Bush is about to give Saddam Hussein one last chance to disarm and avoid war.

"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 peaceful entry of force and not of conflict," Mr. Powell said.

U.S. officials say a vote authorizing the use of military force against Iraq in the U.N. Security Council would have been close. But the British Ambassador to the United Nations, Jeremy Greenstock, said the effort to win passage of the resolution was doomed by a veto threat from France.

"We have had to conclude that [Security] Council consensus will not be possible in line with [U.N.] Resolution 1441. One country in particular has underlined its intention to veto any ultimatum, quote, 'no matter what the circumstances', unquote," Mr. Greenstock explained.

French officials have said the use of military force against Iraq would not be legitimate at this point and said they believed a majority of U.N. Security Council members supported that view.

U.N. officials say they have been advised by the United States to pull their inspection teams out of Iraq. A number of foreign journalists are also on their way out of Baghdad as the likelihood of hostilities grows.

Military experts expect that if war does come, U.S.-led forces would open the conflict with a massive bombing campaign intended to shock the Iraqi military.

Retired U.S. Army General Barry McCaffery fought in the 1991 Gulf War. He told NBC television that coalition commanders expect some of Saddam Hussein's most loyal troops will put up a fight.

"But I think some of us are also very concerned that there is an assumption that the Iraqis won't fight. And some of them are going to fight, 15,000, 60,000. So the second-echelon assault forces are not there [to help the U.S.] and many of us wish they were," General McCafferty said.

In an apparent last-minute bid to avoid a U.S.-led invasion Monday, Saddam Hussein told a Tunisian diplomat that although Iraq did possess weapons of mass destruction at one time, it no longer has such weapons.