Saddam Offered Conditional Step-down before Bush Issued Ultimatum: Report

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein Monday offered a conditional step-down hours before US President George W. Bush gave him a 48-hour ultimatum to leave Iraq to avoid war, an Arabic website reported.

So far, the report, carried on the Arabic website "WWW.US.MOHEET.COM", has not been confirmed by Iraq or other sources.

The proposal by Saddam was rejected by the United States, said the report, which listed the following "five conditions" set by Saddam:

1. Saddam is prepared to give up power and formally resign from all posts, while his second son Qusay Saddam Hussein will rule Iraq. Saddam will stay in Iraq "for the moment."

2. Before giving up power, Saddam will give a nationally televised speech, in which he will urge Iraqi officials to cooperate fully with the UN weapon inspectors and implement UN Security Council Resolution 1441, paving the way for the lift of UN sanctions eventually.

3. New Iraqi leader Qusay will adopt a comprehensive governmental reform plan, introduce an opening-up policy and form a government of national unity through a popular vote.

4. Qusay will promise to establish new-style peaceful relations with neighboring countries, and will be devoted to solving all the remaining issues through dialogue with the United States.

5. Saddam and his family will leave Iraq once the tensions in Iraqi-US relations are reduced.

The report, quoting anonymous western diplomatic sources, said that in his proposal, Saddam said he would announce resignation immediately if the United States agreed to the above conditions, drop the war plan against Iraq and withdraw massive troops from the Gulf. This is the only way to solve the current Iraqi crisis, said Saddam.

Nevertheless, the United States rejected Saddam's proposal, said the report.

President Bush said that by putting forward his proposal, Saddam was aimed at a continued rule of Iraq through his son, but what the United States needs is not to bargain with Saddam, but to completely overthrow the Iraqi regime and to fundamentally change the nature of the Iraqi government, according to the report.

US President Bush on Monday issued an ultimatum to Saddam, saying that Saddam and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours or face a US-led war.

"Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing," Bush said in a prime-time nationally-televised speech.

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