Wednesday, Mar 19, 2003
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By Atul Aneja
The pullout of the U.N. inspectors began within hours of the U.S. President, George W. Bush's 48-hour ultimatum to the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, and his two sons to leave the country. The U.S. and British troops deployed in the region have reportedly been put on a four-hour notice today.
With the phase of inspections formally sealed on Tuesday, Iraq was bracing for an imminent air attack by U.S. forces. Unlike the first Gulf War, the U.S. may not go for a lengthy air campaign now, military analysts say.
After intense bombing and missile attacks in the first 48-hours of the campaign, U.S. ground forces are likely to make a quick dash towards Baghdad. Simultaneously, British and U.S. forces were expected to establish their hold over the Iraqi oil fields around Basra in the south as well as Mosul and Kirkuk in the north.
Fiftysix inspectors took the first special flight out of Baghdad following orders by the U.N. Secretary General, Kofi Annan, on Monday. The rest out of a total of 150-member U.N. staff and other relief workers left the country later in the day. Faced with a deepening crisis, U.N. workers, have been gradually leaving Iraq over the past several weeks. Diplomats from Germany, the Czech
Republic, China, Bahrain, Pakistan and Britain are also moving out of Iraq and neighbouring Kuwait. Britain has asked its nationals to leave Bahrain, the headquarters of the U.S. fifth fleet, that will play a key role in coordinating air attacks from U.S. warships deployed in the Persian Gulf. While there was no direct response from Mr. Hussein to Mr. Bush's 48-hour ultimatum, his son Uday Hussein reacted sharply to the assertion. In a statement distributed by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, he said that Mr. Bush was ``unstable'' and that the U.S. leader ``should give up power in America with his family.''
He also warned that a U.S.-led attack would force Iraq to broaden the war against the U.S.
Any attack on Iraq, he said, would leave ``the wives and mothers of those who fight us constantly crying ... They should not believe there is a single safe spot for them inside Iraq or outside Iraq.''
Before Mr. Bush spoke, Mr. Hussein had warned that the U.S. forces would find an Iraqi fighter ready to die for his country ``behind every rock, tree and wall.''
He acknowledged that Iraq had once possessed weapons of mass destruction to defend itself from Iran and Israel, but insisted it no longer had them.
``When Saddam Hussein says he has no weapons of mass destruction, he means what he says,'' Uday stressed.
Meanwhile, the Arab League has also rejected Mr. Bush's 48-hour deadline. ``The Arab League cannot accept such a final warning,'' the spokesman of the pan-Arab organisation, Hisham Yussef, told reporters in Cairo. While the leading Arab countries took stock of the Bush declaration, the
U.S. has opened fresh talks with Turkey to facilitate the opening of a second front against Iraq.
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