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Hussein has 48 hours to leave Iraq

President George Bush Monday gave Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and his family just 48 hours to flee Iraq or face military action.

&uot;The day of your liberation is near,&uot; Bush told the Iraqi people during his address.

The threat of war comes after United Nations allies refused to back a U.S.-sponsored resolution sanctioning the military action.

Instead the U.S., backed by Britain, Australia, Spain and a host of other nations, will launch military operations aimed at liberating Iraq from Hussein's dictatorship, the president said.

&uot;Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours,&uot; Bush said. &uot;Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict to commence at a time of our choosing.&uot;

Bush said taking military action now would &uot;set a course toward safety.&uot;

&uot;Before it's too late to act, this danger will be removed. The United States has the sovereign authority to use force to ensure its own national security,&uot; Bush said. &uot;It's not a question of authority, but a question of will.&uot;

Last year, Congress unanimously granted Bush the authority to use military action against Iraqi, but Bush said that although the United States has been &uot;honorable and patient,&uot; the &uot;Iraqi regime has used diplomacy as a ploy to gain time and advantage.&uot;

Nonetheless, Bush spoke directly to the Iraqi people and the Iraqi military, saying it would not be a war against the people and urging military leaders not to resist the Allied invasion.

He pledged to deliver food, medicine and other assistance as Iraq recovers from war, but made no qualms about meeting aggression with force.

&uot;If war comes, do not fight for a dying regime that is not worth your own life,&uot; Bush said.

He warned them not to destroy oil wells or use weapons of mass destruction.

U.S. Senator Richard C. Shelby (R) said he endorsed the administration's plans in a written statement.

&uot;The President is right – we must take action in Iraq. Saddam Hussein and his regime pose an immediate danger to the United States and our allies. He is in possession of weapons of mass destruction-biological and chemical-and he is steps away from developing nuclear capabilities,&uot; Shelby said.

&uot;Either we fight him today, on our own terms. Or, we fight him later, on his terms and with nuclear arms. Unless he is removed from power, he will remain a threat to the entire world. Every moment we delay allows him to grow stronger.&uot;