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Bush, Saddam brace for possibility of war

Iraq takes steps 'to destroy any foreign aggression'

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President Bush gives a thumbs-up sign as he prepares to board a helicopter Friday.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As President Bush told the American people "there is little reason to hope [Iraqi leader] Saddam Hussein will disarm" and braced them for the possibility of war, the Iraqi leader put his country on a war footing ahead of a possible invasion by the United States and its allies.

Saddam placed commanders, responsible for defense and internal security, in control of four regions and took direct control of the country's air force and missiles.

The order from Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council divides the country into North, Middle Euphrates, Central and South regions.

The Central region, which includes Baghdad, was put under the command of Qusay Hussein, one of Saddam Hussein's sons.

The order said the move was "being done to repel and destroy any foreign aggression."

Meanwhile, in his weekly radio address, Bush said "we must recognize that some threats are so grave -- and their potential consequences so terrible -- that they must be removed, even if it requires military force."

Germany, France, Russia call for U.N. meeting

In bid to find a diplomatic compromise on the Iraq situation, Germany, France and Russia called for a ministerial-level meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry said Saturday.

The official said all three nations issued the call Saturday, on the eve of a summit between Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar -- the three nations that want the United Nations to authorize the use of force to disarm Iraq.

Germany, France and Russia, all of which oppose the use of force until more time has been given to U.N. weapons inspectors, proposed that the meeting follow a scheduled meeting of the council at which chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix is to present a work program for addressing the main unresolved disarmament issues.

The ministerial meeting would be to "approve the work still needed to be carried out and to set up a timetable in order to carry this out in a thorough, yet realistic manner," the French official said.

France, which has threatened to veto any U.N. resolution authorizing force, and Russia are permanent members of the council. Permanent council members have veto power.

Sunday summit

On Sunday, Bush will travel to Terciera Island in the Azores, a Portuguese island chain in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa, to meet with Blair and Aznar. Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, as the summit's host, will also attend.

Britain, Spain and the United States are co-sponsors of a Security Council resolution that demands Iraq meet a series of tests, or "benchmarks," by a specific deadline to demonstrate that it is serious about disarmament, or face military action.

But that resolution has run into opposition on the 15-member council. Bush administration officials say they do not expect it to pass. So Bush, Blair and Aznar will meet to plan their next moves, which could include not putting the measure to a vote.

Bush, spending the Saturday at Camp David, called Blair to discuss the "continuing diplomatic efforts in capitals around the world and at the U.N., and discussed preparations for tomorrow's meeting in the Azores," White House spokeswoman Jeannie Mamo said.

The president also telephoned Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who supports the Bush policy but will not attend the summit. Italy is not a Security Council member.

Iraq invites Blix, ElBaradei to return

Meanwhile Saturday, Iraq's top scientific adviser invited Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to come to Baghdad "as soon as possible" to help "accelerate cooperation" and "resolve pending issues" related to Iraq's U.N.-mandated disarmament, Iraq's Foreign Ministry said.

In New York, Blix said he received a copy of the letter but declined to comment until it is translated from Arabic. A spokeswoman for ElBaradei said only that he has received the letter.

Blix said the request appears to be similar to others that resulted in visits he and ElBaradei made to Iraq in January and February, though he acknowledged that the "situation is a little different now. Tense."

Blix said another visit to Baghdad and signs of increased Iraqi cooperation might help determine "how fast one can proceed with the key remaining disarmament tasks."

Those remaining issues include destroying banned missiles, carrying out interviews with Iraqi scientists and their families outside of Iraq, and providing details about Iraq's unmanned aerial vehicles and the thousands of liters of anthrax whose fate remains unaccounted for, Blix said.

-- CNN's Dana Bash, Rym Brahimi, Nic Robertson, Richard Roth and Caroline McDonald contributed to this report.


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