War against Iraq will be as short as possible but Americans must be prepared for loss of life, the White House warned Wednesday as the deadline neared for Saddam Hussein to flee.
Bush met with his war council and the White House sent Congress formal notification of justification for war. The three-paragraph document says diplomacy has failed to protect America's security, and it links Iraqi regime with al-Qaeda network.
"On the brink of war with Iraq, Americans should be prepared for what we hope will be as precise, short a conflict as possible, but there are many unknowns and it could be a matter of some duration," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said. "We do not know."
"Americans ought to be prepared for loss of life," he said. "Americans ought to be prepared for the importance of disarming Saddam Hussein to protect the peace."
The White House had no public plans to mark the deadline, which expires at 0100 GMT on Thursday. Aides said war would not automatically start the moment the deadline expires but that Bush would rely on the advice of his military commanders.
In the event of war, Bush would address the nation from the Oval Office, Fleischer said. White House speechwriters have been working on the speech for several days, aides said.
Bush met Wednesday morning with Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and other members of his foreign policy team.
Later, the president met with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who made a pitch for more money to help his city prevent a terrorist attack and respond to any that occurs.
Emerging from the White House, Bloomberg said the lengthy national debate about whether to go to war is over. "The president has listened and he has made his decision, and I know all New Yorkers are behind him and the troops overseas," he said. "He's not going to be cowed or dissuaded. He's going to go out there and do what we all pray is right."
The White House released a letter and report Bush sent Congress on Tuesday night that, in compliance with a war resolution approved by lawmakers last year, outlined his rationale for military conflict.
"The president of the United Stats has the authority — indeed, given the dangers involved, the duty — to use force against Iraq to protect the security of the American people and to compel compliance with United Nations resolutions," the report said.
Turkey, meanwhile, said Wednesday it was preparing to open its airspace to U.S. warplanes but would not allow them access to airbases. (Albawaba.com)
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