Wednesday, March 19, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Saddam put on 48-hour notice

US President George W. Bush addresses the nation from the White House on Monday.

UN weapons inspectors leave an airplane upon arrival from Baghdad at Larnaca airport in Cyprus on Tuesday. Some 80 inspectors arrived on board the aircraft after the UN told them to cut short their hunt for hidden weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. — Reuters photos

Washington, March 18
Setting the course for war on Iraq without the UN backing, US President George W Bush today gave a deadline of 48 hours to Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave the country or face military action and said terrorist threat to the USA and the world would be diminished the moment the “tyrant” Iraqi leader was disarmed.

“Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing,” Mr Bush said in a 15-minute address televised worldwide directed at the American public, allies, Iraqi military and its citizens.

The deadline began at 6.30 a.m. (IST), the time when Mr Bush delivered the speech in which he said the UN Security Council had failed to live upto its responsibilities, “so we will rise to ours.”

“Iraq will not disarm so long as Saddam Hussein holds power,” he said criticising France and Russia for threatening to use veto on the resolution seeking UN approval for military action to disarm Iraq.

“Some permanent members of the Security Council have publicly announced they will veto any resolution that compels disarmament of Iraq. These governments share our assessment of the danger but not our resolve to meet it.”

Mr Bush asked all foreign nationals, including journalists and weapons inspectors to leave Iraq immediately.

In a tough message to the Iraqi military, Mr Bush asked them to allow the peaceful entry of coalition forces to the country to eliminate weapons of mass destruction.

“Our forces will give Iraqi military units clear instructions on actions they can take to avoid being attacked and destroyed. I urge every member of the Iraqi military and intelligence services, if war comes, do not fight for a dying regime that is not worth your own life.”

He asked them not to destroy oil wells, a source of wealth that belongs to the Iraqi people. “Do not obey any command to use weapons of mass destruction against anyone, including the Iraqi people. War crimes will be prosecuted. War criminals will be punished. And it will be no defence to say ‘I was just following orders.’”

A man views a picture of US President Bush on a screen in New York's Time Square on Monday. In the nationally televised address, Bush issued an ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to leave his country within two days, or face war.
— Reuters photo

Mr Bush assured the Iraqi people that “if we begin a military campaign it will be directed to lawless men who direct your country and not at you... the tyrant will soon be gone. The day of your liberation is near.”

The American President said intelligence gathered by the USA and other governments left no doubt that the Iraqi regime continued to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised. “It (the regime) has deep hatred of America and our friends. And it has aided, trained and harboured terrorists, including operatives on Al-Qaida,” he said.

Mr Bush warned that using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfil their “stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country, or any other.

“Terrorists and terror states do not reveal these threats with fair notice, in formal declarations —- and responding to such enemies only after they have struck first is not self defence, it is suicide. The security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now.”

The USA, he said has “the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security. That duty falls to me, as Commander-in-Chief ... I will keep.”

Within minutes of Mr Bush’s address, the USA raised terrorism alert from an “elevated” to “high” in wake of intelligence reports warning terrorist attacks linked to the impending war.

In Tokyo Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Tuesday supported the United States’ position on Iraq and believed the use of military force could be justified by existing UN resolutions, although there was still a chance for peace.

“President Bush has made various efforts to gain international cooperation,” Mr Koizumi told reporters.

Hungary on Tuesday expelled two Iraqi diplomats, claiming their activities were not consistent with their diplomatic status.

The Hungarian news agency MTI reported that the Hungarian foreign ministry expelled the two Iraqi embassy employees on Friday and they had travelled to Jordan yesterday.

Only the temporary charge d’affaires Mukhlif Al-Samari and two other employees remained in the Iraqi embassy in Budapest.

Australia has expelled all diplomatic staff of the Iraqi Embassy here following John Howard government’s decision to participate in the imminent coalition military action against Iraq.

The Iraqi officials and staff have been given five days time to leave the country. Agencies


Iraq dismisses ultimatum

Baghdad, March 18
Iraq today rejected U.S. President George W. Bush’s ultimatum, warning that a U.S. attack to force Saddam Hussein from power would be “a grave mistake”.

Mr Bush set the countdown clock for war with his speech saying “the tyrant will soon be gone”, either by Saddam’s own choice to leave or by force and asked the Iraqi leader and his sons to leave the country within 48 hours.

After the speech, Iraq’s Ambassador to the United Nations dismissed the threat.

“The Iraqi side refused to accept what has been said by Mr Bush, and this will be really the very bad solution for the whole region, for Iraq, for the USA... and for the humanity”, Ambassador Mohammed Al-Douri said.

“This will destabilise not only the region but other parts of the world. So I think this would be a mistake, a grave mistake from the part of the American administration to launch this war against my country”, he said. AP

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