President George W. Bush will address the country on Monday evening, and an aide predicts the president will issue one final ultimatium to Saddam Hussein -- leave Iraq or face war.
Ready for war: U.S. troops in Kuwait.
A U.S.-led war against Iraq became almost certain on Monday.
Faced with unrelenting diplomatic resistance in the U.N. Security Council, the United States, Britain and Spain withdrew a resolution that would have authorized an invasion anytime after Monday unless Iraq proved before then that it had disarmed.
After the resolution was pulled, the White House announced that President George W.
Bush planned to give an address at 8 p.m. EST (2 a.m. Central European Time) on Monday to explain the decision. "He will say that to avoid military conflict Saddam Hussein must leave the country," spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
Fleischer declined to say whether Saddam would be given a deadline. "I will not get into any discussions about when military hostilities may or may not begin," he said.
Inspectors urged to leave
Earlier in the day, the United States advised the United Nations that it should withdraw its inspectors from Baghdad, several nations closed their embassies, and some foreign journalists left Iraq in the clearest sign yet that war is imminent.
U.N. officials have said their inspectors and support staff in Iraq could be evacuated in as little as 48 hours.
"A lot depends on the Iraqis," a senior U.N. inspector told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. "If they let us use aircraft to get out, we could be gone in 48 hours or even less. If they won't let us fly out, we would have to drive to a border, and that could mean an eight-hour journey across hot desert. It would take longer, but we would get out."
Despite the warning, U.N. weapons inspections proceeded Monday. The Information Ministry reported visits to four sites. U.N. spokesman Hiro Ueki confirmed that inspection teams were back on the road, but added: "We are ready for any contingency."
Germans close embassy in Iraq
Expecting war, diplomats also are leaving Baghdad. The last German diplomat in Baghdad, Claude-Robert Ellner, pulled out of the Iraqi capital on Monday after closing the embassy. Over the weekend, the Foreign Ministry also urged all Germans in Iraq to leave the country.
The United States and Britain issued a similar call on Monday to their citizens living in Kuwait, the Iraqi neighbor that Saddam Hussein's forces invaded in 1990. The call was issued a day after the U.S. State Department ordered all of its employees to leave Israel, Syria, Kuwait, the West Bank of the Jordan River and the Gaza Strip.
Amid fears that war is imminent, U.N. observers stopped their work on the Iraqi-Kuwait border on Monday and waited to hear whether they would be sent home. A day earlier, U.N. weapons inspectors flew most of their helicopters out of Iraq.
Those preparations were followed on Monday by a U.S. recommendation that U.N. inspectors withdraw from Iraq.
French blamed for breakdown
At the United Nations, British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock (photo) blamed France for the breakdown because it had threatened to veto the resolution. "We have had to conclude that council consensus will not be possible," Greenstock said, flanked by U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte.
Moments later, French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sablière said that in one-on-one consultations in the past hours "the majority of the council confirmed they do not want a use of force."
The announcement came less than 24 hours after Bush declared that Monday would be the last day for diplomacy.
The United States, Britain and Spain proposed their resolution last month in the hopes of winning U.N. support to disarm Iraq by force. But weeks of intense diplomacy and pressure from the Bush administration failed to convince a majority of the council's 15 members that the time for war had come. In an effort to change members' positions, Britain offered some amendments but council members weren't swayed.
French remain firm in opposition
In response to Bush's demand, France remained firmly opposed to any new resolution in the U.N. Security Council that would authorize a war. "I see no way that this resolution can be considered," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin (photo) said in a radio interview on Monday morning.
France holds a key position among opponents to a U.S.-led war because it can use its veto on the Security Council to block a resolution.
Germany, a rotating council member without veto power, shares France's opposition. In a television interview on Sunday evening, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder acknowledged that he had doubts about the chances of preventing a war at this point. "But I have not given up hope," Schröder said on the public television station ZDF.
The chancellor also suggested that the key to ending the crisis was the continued weapons inspections program. "I think the inspectors should get the time that they have asked for," he said.
Saddam plans for attack
Over the weekend, Saddam (photo) made his own preparations for war, sidestepping the military chain of command to place one of his sons and three other trusted aides in charge of the nation's defense. In a meeting with military commanders Sunday, the Iraqi leader threatened a broader war if the United States attacked. "When the enemy starts a large-scale battle, he must realize that the battle between us will be open wherever there is sky, land and water in the entire world," Saddam told his commanders, according to the official Iraqi News Agency.
Even before the Azores meeting began, Bush and his advisers were preparing for combat as well, working on a major war address that he will deliver on Monday night. The speech is expected to give Saddam a final ultimatum to disarm or face war, probably within days, senior officials said.
The military preparations are largely complete. Nearly 300,000 American and British troops are stationed in the Persian Gulf region.They are backed by a naval armada and an estimated 1,000 combat aircraft.