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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S., Spain, Britain Try Last-Ditch Summit

LAJES AIRBASE, Azores -- With Iraq on a war footing, U.S. President George W. Bush headed for an emergency summit Sunday with close allies Britain and Spain that could start the countdown to an invasion.

President Saddam Hussein divided Iraq into four military districts under his command to prepare for any assault by a quarter of a million U.S. and British troops massed in the Gulf region.

Bush flew from the United States for the last-ditch summit on the Azores islands in the Atlantic with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

The trio, who led a hard line in accusing Hussein of failing to give up weapons of mass destruction, say the meeting is not a council of war. A White House spokesman said Bush wanted to "go the extra mile on the diplomatic front."

But hopes were fading for a diplomatic breakthrough. UN arms inspectors were even forced to pull out five of their eight helicopters from Iraq on Sunday after insurers cancelled cover because of the growing risks of war, an Iraqi source said.

Spain and Britain, meanwhile, echoed Bush's view that any invasion of Iraq would be legal under international law even without a new UN Security Council resolution.

A new resolution by the bitterly divided council "would be politically desirable," Aznar said, "but from the legal point of view it is not indispensable."

Bush said Saturday that he saw little hope Hussein would admit to the banned weapons programs which the United States and Britain say Iraq must declare, or be disarmed by force.

"There is no doubt: We will confront a growing danger, to protect ourselves, to remove a patron and protector of terror, and to keep the peace of the world," he said in a radio address.

Baghdad spat back defiance. "It is impertinent and pompous of these two administrations to take a decision to wage such a dangerous attack with this level of immorality and illegitimacy," the official al-Thawra newspaper said.

Hussein's Revolutionary Command Council ordered the four newly established military districts to "take the necessary steps to repulse and destroy any foreign aggression".

The president's younger son Qusay was put in charge of Baghdad and other central areas of Iraq.

Once diplomacy was exhausted, U.S. officials said, Bush would address the nation, issuing a final ultimatum to Hussein and giving aid workers and others time to leave Iraq.

The U.S. embassy in the United Arab Emirates warned U.S. citizens Sunday of possible "terrorist" attacks in nightclubs in Dubai, the region's tourist hub.

The United Nations said in Baghdad that Iraq was continuing to destroy its banned al-Samoud missiles in accordance with UN disarmament demands, despite the war footing announcement. Iraq has so far destroyed 68 of around 120 al-Samoud missiles.

Iraq has invited top UN weapons inspectors to visit Baghdad as soon as possible to discuss outstanding issues. A UN spokeswoman in Vienna said the inspectors would consult the Security Council on Monday about the invitation.