Abandoning diplomacy, President Bush gave Saddam Hussein a final ultimatum Monday to leave Iraq or face a U.S.-led war. The president planned an address to the nation at 8 p.m., ET time, to explain his decision.
"This matter cannot continue indefinitely," Secretary of State Colin Powell said.
The development came as the United States, Britain and Spain ended diplomatic efforts in the United Nations to disarm Saddam Hussein, withdrawing their proposed resolution setting an ultimatum and clearing the way for a U.S.-led war without Security Council approval.
"It was our judgment that no further purpose would be served by pushing this resolution," Powell said.
Bush and his advisers were still debating whether to give Saddam a deadline to leave. The prevailing sentiment was that a timetable would be a bad idea.
Whether Bush sets a deadline or not, officials said war is days away.
Ahead of the speech, top congressional leaders were to go to the White House to meet with the president.
Bush's speech, scheduled to run anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, was to include a warning for humanitarian workers and journalists to leave the country, officials said. Bush planned to warn them that Saddam has a history of taking hostages, they said.
Powell, in a news conference at the State Department, said that Bush in his address would assert that leaving Iraq was the only way for Saddam to avoid war.
Powell said that those who must leave Iraq include Saddam and "immediate members of his family."
The U.S. decision came a day after Bush and the leaders of Britain, Spain and Portugal held a brief summit on Azores Island and agreed to give U.N. diplomacy one last day.
However, that decision was cut short. Powell said the move to quit diplomatic efforts was made after "we spent a great deal of time overnight and early this morning talking to friends and colleagues."