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Iraqi Leader Rejects Bush's Ultimatum - 2003-03-19

A White House spokesman is calling the Iraqi rejection Saddam Hussein’s latest mistake, and his final mistake. He tells reporters President Bush still hopes the Iraqi leader will go into exile, and thereby avoid war.

In a televised address Monday night, President Bush said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has until Wednesday to leave his country, if he wants to avoid war.

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

President Bush urged all foreign nationals to leave Iraq immediately. The ultimatum came after the U.S, Britain and Spain, decided not to push for a vote on a UN resolution they had backed, facing the threat of a French veto.

President Bush said the Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities so the U.S. will enforce what he called the “just demands of the world.” He also said the U.S. has sovereign authority to use force to protect its national security. In his address, Mr. Bush also made a direct appeal to the Iraqi people, telling them the U.S. would help rebuild after a conflict, to create a country he said would be “prosperous and free.”

“The tyrant will soon be gone. 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.”

But some top Democrats in the U.S. Congress feel the Bush administration’s policies are pushing the U.S. into war. Before the Presidential address, Senator Joseph Lieberman said if the international community fails to stand together and recognize that force is necessary to enforce United Nations resolutions, part of the blame will rest on the Security Council.

“And it will result in part from the Bush Administration’s unilateralist divisive foreign policy, which has pushed a lot of the world away from us and from this just and necessary cause in Iraq that we have been pursuing.”

The top Democrat in the Senate, Minority Leader Tom Daschle, said he is saddened that President Bush, as he put it “failed so miserably at diplomacy” that the U.S. is now forced into war.