UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Secretary-General Kofi Annan ordered U.N. employees yesterday to leave Iraq, after the United States, Britain and Spain abandoned efforts to win U.N. backing for military action. President Bush gave Saddam Hussein an ultimatum to get out of his country or face a U.S.-led war.

Shabina Khatri
U.N. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte, right, folds up his statement after announcing that the United States, Britain and Spain withdrew their resolution. AP PHOTO

The dramatic announcements, on the same day as the Security Council met privately to address the Iraq crisis, coincided with countries closing their embassies there and some foreign journalists pulling out.

“We will withdraw the UNMOVIC and atomic agency inspectors. We will withdraw the U.N. humanitarian workers,” Annan said. Journalists outside the Canal Hotel, the Baghdad headquarters of the inspectors, saw Iraqi U.N. employees leaving with boxes of personal belongings.

The suspension of the U.N. humanitarian program will cut off food and medicine to about 60 percent of Iraq’s 20 million people.

There are 156 U.N. inspectors and support staff in Iraq from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is in charge of nuclear inspections, and the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, known as UNMOVIC, which is responsible for inspecting chemical, biological and long-range missiles.

The decision by the United States, Britain and Spain not to call for a vote on their resolution seeking authorization for military force represented a crushing diplomatic failure for America and the United Nations on the eve of what looks like war. It left the world body bitterly divided and Washington marching toward a military confrontation without international support, which would have been invaluable.

Even in the face of imminent military action, the Security Council scheduled a meeting tomorrow at the request of France, Russia and Germany, who oppose a rush to war and want to make a last-ditch effort to achieve Iraq’s peaceful disarmament.

The three countries want foreign ministers to set a timetable to carry out a dozen key disarmament tasks set by chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix. It wasn’t clear how many of the 15 council foreign ministers would come to New York.

Germany’s U.N. ambassador, Gunter Pleuger, said it was important to make a 100 percent effort even if there’s only a “1 percent chance of keeping the peace.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned military action against Iraq, saying earlier yesterday that war would be a mistake that could imperil world security.

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