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Bush: Monday is 'a moment of truth' on Iraq

U.N. observers pull out of Iraqi side of DMZ

President Bush speaks in the Azores after the summit on Iraq.
President Bush speaks in the Azores after the summit on Iraq.

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The U.S. is considering a preemptive strike against Iraqi forces and military planners are working on ways to stop Saddam Hussein from taking desperate action after a U.S. ultimatum. CNN's Jamie McIntyre reports.
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LAJES, Azores (CNN) -- President Bush said the "coalition of the willing" would make its final effort Monday -- "a moment of truth for the world" -- to extract a resolution from the U.N. Security Council that would give Iraq an ultimatum to disarm immediately or be disarmed by force.

"Tomorrow is the day we determine whether or not diplomacy can work," Bush said after a one-hour meeting with his key council allies, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

"Tomorrow is a moment of truth for the world," Bush said. "Many nations have voiced a commitment to peace and security, and now they must demonstrate that commitment in the only effective way, by supporting the immediate and unconditional disarmament of Saddam Hussein."

Administration sources said White House officials would be calling many of the 15 Security Council members in a final effort to persuade them to vote for a draft resolution that would give Iraq a few more days to disarm or face military action.

Bush's speechwriters, in anticipation that the president might appear on television this week to issue an ultimatum to the Iraqi president -- with or without the blessing of the Security Council -- spent the weekend with Bush at Camp David and traveled with him to the Azores.

Aboard Air Force One on his way back to Washington, Bush made two phone calls: one to Secretary of State Colin Powell, and another to Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Bush was expected to consult with Blair and Aznar again Monday to decide whether to seek a Security Council vote, administration sources said.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM) on Monday pulled its remaining staff from the Iraqi side of the Kuwait-Iraq demilitarized zone, U.N. sources tell CNN.

The evacuation, which had been anticipated due to heightened concerns over an imminent war with Iraq, is expected to continue throughout the day, the sources said.

Address to the nation

Sources at the White House said Bush would address the nation, perhaps as soon as Monday night, to give Saddam a final deadline to disarm and to advise foreign nationals to leave the country.

The length of time between Bush's address and the start of hostilities is being discussed, the sources said.

It was not clear whether a vote would be held if Monday's calls fail to persuade nine of the 15 members, though administration sources said it was unlikely. Officials said privately that the resolution lacks the nine votes needed to pass and that France has promised a veto if it does get the votes.

Meanwhile, Saddam said Sunday that his troops would fight any U.S.-led invasion with sticks and knives if necessary and would attack "wherever there was sky, land and water."

"If God wanted, by God, we will fight them with daggers, swords and sticks if the other arms were scarce," Saddam told senior military officers in an appearance broadcast on Iraqi television.

"If the enemy opens the battle on a wide scale, we will open wherever there was sky, land and water on the entire Earth," he added.

Saddam also repeated his denial of U.S. and British allegations that his country has weapons of mass destruction, dubbing the accusation "a great lie."

Bush has maintained that Resolution 1441, passed unanimously in the fall, provides the legal backing for military action against Iraq, though France has said the use of force without passage of another resolution would be illegal.

New French move

None of the three leaders in the Azores commented on a German-Russian-French call for a Security Council meeting Tuesday to determine a final schedule for the weapons inspectors.

France would not object to a 30-day timeline for U.N. weapons inspectors to wrap up their work in Iraq -- if the inspectors themselves set such a schedule -- French President Jacques Chirac said Sunday in a CBS "60 Minutes" interview with CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour. (Full transcript)

France had been discussing a 120-day timeline for the inspections, which began in November.

On Tuesday, U.N. chief weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei are expected to present to the Security Council a program to outline how inspectors can address the remaining issues in the United Nations' effort to disarm Iraq.

But in another indication of the increasing tension, the State Department ordered nonessential consular personnel and dependents to leave Kuwait, Syria, and Israel, the West Bank and Gaza on Sunday.

The decision "is a result of an overall assessment of the security situation in the region due to the threat of military action in Iraq," the State Department said in three travel warnings issued simultaneously Sunday night.

-- CNN correspondents John King, Dana Bash, Richard Roth, Nic Robertson and Rym Brahimi, and producer Caroline McDonald, contributed to this report.

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