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Diplomacy comes to abrupt end

WASHINGTON — In the end, President Bush's final day of diplomacy was over almost as soon as it began.

It came to an abrupt but hardly unexpected conclusion in a National Security Council meeting in the White House Situation Room shortly after 9 a.m. Monday, when Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, reporting on a half-dozen early phone calls he had made to his counterparts around the world, told Bush that nothing had changed overnight.

The president, who aides say was 99 percent certain as early as last week that the United Nations would not support a U.S.-led attack on Iraq, reported that he had come to the same conclusion in very early calls on Monday with Prime Ministers Tony Blair of Britain and Jose Maria Aznar of Spain. A largely pro-forma decision was made: The bitterly fought U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing an invasion was dead and would be withdrawn.

Within minutes, the American, British and Spanish ambassadors to the United Nations announced in New York that they would not bring the resolution to a vote. Moments later, the White House said that Bush would deliver an ultimatum to President Saddam Hussein of Iraq in a televised address to the nation.

For the rest of the day, Bush huddled with speechwriters and senior advisers to prepare for a 15-minute speech to be delivered not from the Oval Office, a grave setting that advisers said made the president look isolated, but from the open splendor of the White House Cross Hall, the columned, red-carpeted marble corridor connecting the State Dining Room to the East Room.

Bush rehearsed the speech Monday afternoon in the Cross Hall, with his chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson, and one of his closest advisers, Karen P. Hughes, as the audience. Also listening were Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, and Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff.

Gerson and Hughes were with Bush on his Sunday trip to an emergency summit meeting with Blair and Aznar in the Azores, and aides said Monday that the speech had been in the works since late last week, when the White House concluded that the United States did not have enough votes on the Security Council for the resolution to pass. The last-minute meeting in the Azores, a senior administration official said Monday, was a way to give the resolution "a decorous burial."

Hughes, who left the White House in July but still oversees Bush's major speeches, worked on the address with Gerson on Air Force One as it crossed the Atlantic. "We knew this day was coming," said Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director.

On Monday, despite an almost certain war, the president stuck to a nearly regular schedule. At 10 a.m., he spent a half-hour on last-minute battle plans in an Oval Office meeting with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Rumsfeld's deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz, who has advocated action against Saddam for more than a decade.

Rumsfeld has met daily with Bush since Wednesday, administration officials said, and has been in constant contact with him by phone.

The president also met with his Treasury secretary, John W. Snow, who along with other senior administration officials presented Bush with an annual report Monday afternoon on the financial condition of the Social Security program. White House officials cited the meeting as an indication that Bush was not neglecting domestic matters, even as some 250,000 U.S. and British troops were preparing an assault on Iraq.

Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., the White House budget director, said in a brief interview that Bush's mood was "normal," and that "he's kept balance in his schedule and in the tension." In case of war, Daniels added, the White House would "very quickly" send an emergency request to Congress for billions of dollars in military spending.

Earlier Monday, Bush threw a ball on the South Lawn for his two dogs, Barney, a 2-year-old Scottish terrier, and Spot, an English springer spaniel that turned 14 on Monday. Aides said that Bush had a midday workout in his exercise room in the White House residential quarters and that Laura Bush was expected back at the White House in the afternoon from a 24-hour trip to Texas.

Late Monday, as the capital grew dark, Bush summoned congressional leaders to the Oval Office to give them an update on Iraq and a preview of his speech. Sen. Richard C. Lugar, R-Ind., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, was among them. The president, Lugar said earlier Monday, was heading into war angry at allies like Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany, who did not support him in the Security Council on Iraq.

"If you're sitting with the president, he'll point to the chair where Schroeder was sitting and where he said these things and he thinks just simply was not giving him the truth," Lugar said. "And so he's very, very upset still about that."

White House aides said Monday night that Bush's speech would not be his last on Iraq, and that he was likely to address the nation as the attack begins, perhaps from the Oval Office. The aides noted that the last time the president addressed the nation from the Oval Office was on the night of Sept. 11, 2001.