Bush gives Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave or face war

18 March 2003
President George Bush on 17 March delivered an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq or face war within 48 hours. '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,' he said.

In a televised address from the White House, Bush signalled the long-anticipated end of the road for inspections and diplomacy. 'Instead of drifting along toward tragedy, we will set a course towards safety -Before the day of horror can come, before it is too late to act, this danger [of Saddam Hussein using weapons of mass destruction] will be removed.' The president also reiterated his frustration with fellow members of the UN Security Council. 'The UN Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours.' The French threat to veto any second resolution authorising the use of force was singled out for criticism.

Bush also contended that war without further UN backing was legal, both from the point of view of the US' right to defend itself and from that of UN rules. 'The US has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security,' he said, before asserting: 'Under resolutions 678 and 687, both still in effect, the US and our allies are authorised to use force in ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.'

Bush also addressed the Iraqi people whom he said could hear him in a translated radio broadcast. He cast the imminent war as one of liberation, and urged Iraqi not to fight their deliverers: 'We will tear down the apparatus of terror and we will help you to build a new Iraq that is prosperous and free -The tyrant will soon be gone. The day of your liberation is near -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.' Bush concluded his speech by alluding to the notion of a democratic Iraq as an example to the region: 'We believe that the Iraqi people are capable and deserving of human liberty, and when the dictator has departed, they can set an example to all the Middle East of a vital and peaceful and self-governing nation.'

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