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Bush gives Saddam 48 hours to leave Iraq

As President Bush spoke of war, officials raised the national terrorism threat alert level from
As President Bush spoke of war, officials raised the national terrorism threat alert level from "yellow" to "orange."

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CNN's John King reports on President Bush's 48-hour ultimatum to Saddam Hussein (March 18)
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President Bush's address to the nation (March 17)
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U.S. and British officials abandoned their proposed second resolution against Iraq, saying France's promised veto made any U.N. Security Council vote useless. CNN's Richard Roth reports (March 18)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Saying the United States "will not be intimated by thugs and killers," President Bush gave Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his sons a 48-hour ultimatum Monday: Leave the country or face military action.

The ultimatum was delivered in a 13-minute televised speech from the White House. After Bush spoke, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the nation's terror alert level had been raised from "yellow" to "orange," the second-highest level. (Full story)

Intelligence leaves "no doubt" that Iraq possesses "some of the most lethal weapons ever devised," Bush said. "We are now acting because the risks of inaction would be far greater. In one year, or five years, the power of Iraq to inflict harm on all free nations would be multiplied many times over."

Earlier Monday, the United States, Britain and Spain gave up on winning support for a proposed Security Council resolution that would have given an ultimatum the backing of the United Nations.

The president said 12 years of diplomacy had failed to get the Iraqi leader to give up weapons of mass destruction.

"United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours," Bush said.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned on Monday, "If the [military] action is to take place without the support of the council, its legitimacy will be questioned and the support for it will be diminished."

Bush said previous U.N. resolutions that Baghdad has ignored, along with congressional approval he won last year, gave all the authority needed

The "security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now," the president said. Waiting to disarm Iraq only after the regime, or terrorists trained by Iraq, strikes first is suicide, Bush said, not self-defense.

Bush promised Iraqis that their "day of liberation was near" and that life without Saddam would be "prosperous and free" with "no more wars of aggression against your neighbors, no more poison factories, no more executions of dissidents, no more torture chambers and rape rooms."

President warns Iraqis

He also urged Iraqi troops to let U.S.-led coalition forces enter peacefully and not to fight "for a dying regime." He said if they followed instructions from the coalition, they could "avoid being destroyed."

He vowed that anyone who destroys oil wells or uses weapons of mass destruction would face trial as a war criminal..

The president also warned Americans that Saddam or terrorist groups might launch attacks on the United States or its friends, but he said the country could not live under the threat of blackmail and that the danger would diminish when Saddam is disarmed.

Iraq has consistently denied possessing weapons of mass destruction.

Bush said security measures such as expelling people with ties to Iraqi intelligence services, and beefing up security at airports and seaports and other critical facilities, had been taken.

"We are a peaceful people, yet we are not a fragile people," the president said. "And we will not be intimidated by thugs and killers."

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