In a televised address on Monday, President Bush said Iraq will face certain war with the United States if its leadership fails to step down by Wednesday night.
"Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours," the president said from the East Room of the White House. "Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing."
The speech sets the stage for an almost certain war between Iraq and a coalition of nations led by the U.S. and U.K. that could commence as early as mid-week. Currently, there are more than a quarter of a million American and British troops in the Persian Gulf poised to coordinate an invasion of Iraq.
Throughout his remarks, the president reiterated his previously stated reasons for taking the nation to war, arguing that Saddam Hussein poses a risk to U.S. and global security.
"The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this threat, but we will do everything to defeat it," he said. "Instead of drifting along toward tragedy, we will set a course toward safety."
While much of the president's speech was aimed at an American public, his remarks also contained distinct messages targeted at other audiences around the globe.
To Iraqi citizens, the president looked beyond the likely coming hostilities to a post-war Iraq. He said the U.S. will offer humanitarian and other aid to help with reconstruction. "We will help you to build a new Iraq that is prosperous and free," he promised.
The president encouraged members of the Iraqi military to surrender before the fighting begins and issued an ominous warning.
"Do not obey any command to use weapons of mass destruction against anyone, including the Iraqi people," he said. "War crimes will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished and it will be no defense to say, 'I was just following orders.' "
To a global audience which appears largely opposed to war, President Bush reviewed the history of U.S. dealings with Iraq since the close of the Gulf War in 1991. The president said that the Iraqis have failed to comply with "more than a dozen" United Nations resolutions.
"Peaceful efforts to disarm the Iraq regime have failed again and again because we are not dealing with peaceful men," he said.
The president faulted the United Nations for failing to take a harder line against Saddam Hussein and for not backing a resolution recently proposed by U.S. ally Britain that would have given Iraq 10 days to disarm.
"The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours," he said. (Click to read the complete transcript of President Bush's address to the nation).
Other key developments over the last 24 hours: