Bush issues ultimatum

President Bush

WASHINGTON - On Monday, President George W. Bush gave Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein a 48-hour deadline to flee Iraq or face a U.S.-led invasion.

"The tyrant will soon be gone," Mr. Bush vowed as 250,000 American troops stood poised to strike.

As the president prepared the nation for war, he also raised the terror alert to the second-highest level, warning that terrorists may strike U.S. interests at home or abroad in response to action against Iraq.

The Department of Homeland Security in consultation with the Homeland Security Council made the decision to raise the national threat level.

"The intelligence community believes that terrorists will attempt multiple attacks against U.S. and coalition targets worldwide in the event of a U.S.-led military campaign against Saddam Hussein," department director Tom Ridge said. "A large volume of reporting across a range of sources, some of which are highly reliable, indicates that Al-Qaida probably would attempt to launch terrorist attacks against U.S. interests claiming they were defending Muslims or the Iraqi people rather than Saddam Hussein's regime."

The president told the Iraqi people, "The day of your liberation is near." He said that if Saddam does not leave, the U.S. will attack "at a time of our choosing."

The president issued his ultimatum after U.N. allies refused to back his bid for a resolution sanctioning military force. The diplomatic defeat forced Mr. Bush to move toward war accompanied by Britain, Spain, Australia and a handful of other nations in his self-described "coalition of the willing."

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