WASHINGTON - President Bush will issue an ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on Monday night that Saddam step down or face war, a White House spokesman said.
Bush will address the American people at 8 p.m. EST following the failure by the U.N. Security Council to reach a consensus on how to deal with Iraq.
"He will say that to avoid military conflict, Saddam Hussein must leave the country," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. "The next move will be up to Saddam Hussein."
The decision to give the speech came quickly after the U.S.-British-Spanish sponsors of a new U.N. disarmament draft resolution withdrew it in the face of certain defeat at the bitterly divided Security Council.
Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, during a crisis summit on Sunday, had agreed to give diplomacy one more day. Bush spoke to both Blair and Aznar on Monday morning.
"The United Nations has failed to enforce its own demands that Iraq immediately disarm. As a result, the diplomatic window has been closed," Fleischer said.
Bush was expected to give Saddam a brief window, perhaps 48 or 72 hours, to depart in the face of massive U.S. and British military presence in the Gulf.
Saddam at this point has shown no inclination to go into exile in spite of repeated Bush entreaties for him to do so, and some U.S. officials were doubtful that he would do so now.
Bush has vowed to go to war to disarm Iraq of suspected weapons of mass destruction with or without U.N. approval.
"The United Nations failed to act. The United Nations had its opportunity to enforce its own resolutions -- to take an important role, an effective role, in the anti-proliferation efforts which are essential to keeping the peace. The United Nations showed it was not able to do so in the form of the Security Council," Fleischer said.
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd