Bush ultimatum to Iraq
U.N. begins pulling out of Iraq
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- A war against Iraq could start within days as U.S. President George W. Bush prepares to issue an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to leave his country or face military action.
The ultimatum will be delivered via a globally televised address beginning 1 a.m. GMT Tuesday (HK 9 a.m., noon Aust. E.T.), and is tipped to give the Iraqi leader 48 hours to decide.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the ultimatum to Saddam, his immediate family and other key leaders would say: Leave the country or face the "serious consequences" mentioned in U.N. Resolution 1441.
Saddam has a "very small opening, several days at best," a senior U.S. administration official said. Another said a 72-hour deadline "is in the right ballpark."
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri has ruled out that possibility. Speaking Monday, Sabri called Bush a "crazy man" and suggested Bush step down instead to let the world live in peace.
The U.S. administration is urging journalists and diplomats to leave Iraq as soon as possible and U.N. weapons inspectors are now preparing to leave.
The United States, Britain and Spain on Monday abandoned efforts to seek a vote on their proposed second U.N. resolution on Iraq.
"The co-sponsors have agreed they will not pursue a vote on the draft resolution," British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said. "The co-sponsors reserve the right to take their own steps to secure the disarmament of Iraq."
Without naming the country, Greenstock blamed France for the diplomatic failure.
"We have had to conclude that council consensus will not be possible," Greenstock said. "One country in particular has underlined its intention to veto a resolution no matter what. That country rejected the proposal even before Iraq."
A French proposal for a 30-day deadline and no "automatic" threat of war "would roll back the unanimous agreements" the Security Council reached in November when it passed resolution 1441, Greenstock said.
The French plan "would amount to no ultimatum, no pressure, and no disarmament."
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, speaking after Greenstock, said he thought a Security Council vote on the resolution would have "been close."
"We regret that in the face of an explicit threat to veto, the vote-counting became a secondary consideration," Negroponte said.
French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said the United States, Britain and Spain "realized that the majority in the council is against and oppose a resolution authorizing the use of force."
"This is a position of the huge majority in the council. ... It would not be legitimate to authorize the use of force now while the inspections set out by resolution are producing results."
U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq are making plans to begin leaving Tuesday ahead of an expected U.S.-led attack, a U.N. spokesman said. (Full story)
Secretary-General Kofi Annan said: "We seem to have reached the end of the road." He added he was "disappointed and frustrated" that the Iraq impasse could not be resolved.
Annan also said war against Iraq without U.N. backing would lack legitimacy.
"If the action is to take place without the support of the council, its legitimacy will be questioned and the support for it will be diminished," Annan said.
The United States, Britain, Germany and Australia have warned its citizens to leave the Gulf region, and China has begun evacuating its Iraqi embassy in Baghdad, according to Chinese state-run media reports. (Threat sparks exodus)
Monday's dramatic steps came after a diplomatic ultimatum from Washington, London and Madrid failed to move key members of the Security Council on Iraq.
France and Russia, who have veto power, dismissed Monday's deadline for a diplomatic solution after U.S., British and Spanish leaders met in the Azores on Sunday and Bush said the "moment of truth" was at hand.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who faces domestic opposition to war, received legal backing on Monday from his attorney general for war without another U.N. resolution.
The authority to use force against Iraq stems from the combined effect of previous U.N. Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq, including 1441, Lord Goldsmith wrote to Parliament. (Goldsmith statement)
However, one member of Blair's Cabinet, Robin Cook, resigned on Monday in protest at the government's handling of the Iraq crisis -- and International Development Secretary Clare Short has threatened to resign should there be war without a second resolution.
Cook was the government's leader in the House of Commons and had served previously as foreign secretary.
Blair held an emergency Cabinet meeting on Iraq on Monday afternoon, and the House of Commons will debate on Tuesday whether to back the government's proposal to use "all means necessary" to disarm Iraq.
In Baghdad, Saddam has put his country on a war footing, taking direct control of the country's air force and missiles and putting commanders responsible for defense and internal security in control of four regions.
He told a meeting of his top 30 military officers that his troops would fight a U.S.-led invasion with sticks and knives if necessary. (Full story)
In a statement read by an anchor on Iraqi television, Saddam reiterated his stance that Iraq once had weapons of mass destruction but destroyed them.
U.S. officials, however, said fresh evidence shows Iraq may be preparing to use chemical weapons in the event of war. (Full story)