Troops 'told of March 17 invasion'
Daily Telegraph, UK 06mar03:
BRITISH troops had been told an invasion of Iraq would begin on March 17, with a huge bombing campaign being launched four days earlier, the Daily Express in London has reported.
The tabloid quoted a senior government source, who it reported had direct access to British military planning in Kuwait, as saying that "everything is being geared up towards a ground invasion beginning on Monday week".
British newspapers also reported that Britain and the US were considering an amended new United Nations resolution giving Iraq a short time to disarm or face imminent military action.
The Times said that London and Washington were to force a vote on a new resolution early next week, but were studying ways of luring wavering Security Council members into their camp.
One possible solution would be to introduce an ultimatum into the resolution, or a protocol alongside it. The intention would be to give Iraq a few more days to produce chemical and biological weapons, or furnish evidence of their destruction.
The pro-war Sun, Britain's biggest-selling daily, said that US President George W. Bush would give Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein a 72-hour ultimatum to disarm next week after a crucial Security Council vote.
The order to strike would be given even if France vetoed a new resolution that aimed to pave the way to military action, the tabloid added.
Action was expected to begin towards the end of next week, and senior allied commanders had set April 10 as the target date for the end of the war, before temperatures in Iraq soared and the cost of conflict spirals, The Sun said.
In an editorial, the tabloid renewed an attack on French President Jacques Chirac, calling him "Le Worm" for his "spineless" refusal to back the tough US stance on Iraq.
France and Russia on Wednesday dangled the threat of using their veto power on the Security Council to block a new US-British-Spanish resolution.
The Sun claimed Chirac was trying to protect his country's trade deals in the region, and "never meant it when he opposed military action".
France could do a "massive U-turn" if chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix delivered a negative report to the UN on Friday, and Chirac could "emerge with a vestige of respectability", the paper said.
The right-wing Daily Mail tabloid said that Bush would give Saddam a three-day final deadline to disarm next week, whether a new resolution in the Security Council passed, failed or was withdrawn.
The paper said on its front page that British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's staunchest supporter in the Iraq crisis, had been dealt a "double hammer blow" by Blix saying that Iraq's destruction of a number of banned Al-Samoud missiles was "real disarmament", and by the declaration by France and Russia.