Good afternoon, Jon Snow here with your daily digest of Channel 4 News. But first I'm delighted to include Lindsey Hilsum's latest dispatch from Baghdad:



Ultimatum hangs over Baghdad:
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We woke up to the news of George Bush's 48-hour ultimatum for Saddam Hussein and his family to leave the country. I had been lying in bed awake for a couple of hours - but decided that there was no purpose in finding out about the speech before 8am, because there was nothing I could do about it.

Nothing much Iraqis can do either. By mid morning, we learnt that Saddam Hussein's elder son Uday had suggested that George Bush and his family should leave their country instead, and promised that "the wives and mothers of those Americans who will fight us will weep blood and tears."

A little later, the President himself appeared on TV being cheered by loyal soldiers and dressed in military uniform instead of his normal grey suit.

The message of the father echoed that of the son: "Iraq and all its sons are fully ready to confront the invading aggressors and repel them."


Shutting up shop:
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Most shops are shut now, and Iraqis are as ready as they ever will be for war. The drivers we work with say everyone's always asking them, "When will it start?" because they think anyone who knows journalists must have inside information.

Alas, we're just waiting too. I met a man in a petrol queue who said he'd been glued to Radio Monte Carlo and Al Jazeera TV (his brother has an illegal satellite dish). "Sounds like it'll happen Wednesday or Thursday," he said.

"We know 95% that it's going to happen - we've just got 5% hope that it won't. Don't the politicians realise that people's lives depend on what they say?" He had sent his children to the village, so that if he had to flee he could move more quickly.


American journalists leave Baghdad:
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I don't know the exact numbers, but I think about half the journalists have left so there are about 100 of us remaining. All the major British broadcasters - ITV, Channel 4 News, Channel 5 News, the BBC and Sky - have
stayed, whereas most American networks have gone. A small team from CBS (neither of them American nationals) remain, and CNN is here too.

Many European TV channels are sticking it out. I'm sure we'll all get to know each other very well in the coming days!

I wonder what Iraqi people will make of all this when it's over. The central doctrine of their President is that he embodies the nation - the leader, the state, the government and the people are indivisable. That's why he refuses to leave, even though that would spare them war.

Loyalists will go to bed tonight knowing that if he falls, they fall too and other Iraqis will show them no mercy.

Others are hoping that this is the moment their nation can be reborn, through violence, and at last they'll be able to speak freely and rejoin the world. But most, I suspect, will just go to bed in fear, worrying about the bombing, worrying about the prospect of civil war, worrying about keeping their children safe in the unknown weeks ahead.


Lindsey Hilsum


And from London, Jon Snow writes:



Tens of thousands of Kurds flee northern Iraq:
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They are already streaming out of the Northern Iraqi towns across into the No-Fly zones and out into the hills.  The exodus ahead of war is under way, and tonight Gaby Rado is with them: His report at seven.


Political classes convulsed:
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And as for the issue of war policy, the British political classes are tonight convulsed as they debate the war in the normally retreating and ever less significant confines of the Houses of Parliament.

Tonight, though, witnesses one of the most dramatic events of modern times when the Prime Minister, for almost the first time, seeks the permission of elected members to go to war.

One hundred and twenty-two of his own members deserted him the last time he tested opinion.  There could be more tonight following the principled resignation of his cabinet colleague Robin Cook.


Short stays:
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Two other junior ministers have already gone. But stunningly Clare Short for all her damnation of Blair's 'recklessness' has proved reckless with her own sense of herself. She having pledged to go if there was no UN second resolution sanctioning military action is staying.

'Bomber Short' as the tabloids called her during Kosovo, is tonight voting to bomb again, so that she can be on deck to help pick up the pieces. Not a lot of people are saying she has done anything to enhance her reputation for principle. More at:
http://www.channel4.com/news/2003/03/week_3/18_short.html


Saddam defies US:
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>From Baghdad tonight, Saddam's continuing defiance of US effort to push him into exile.   Lindsey Hilsum will be live from the Iraqi capital with the latest.


Loads of stuff happening. See you at seven as ever is,

Warmest regards,

Jon Snow


Business news:
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In the City a short time ago, the FTSE-100 index closed up 120.5 points at 3722.3. Leading shares surged ahead again today on mounting confidence that a swift war in Iraq will leave the fragile global economy relatively unscathed. Even news of rising inflation has failed to dampen investors' confidence. In New York, the Dow Jones resumed trading up 282 points at 8142.



UK weather:
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Another dry and fine night throughout the country. There will be plenty of clear spells around, and combined with the light winds inland, this will allow some mist and fog patches to develop. Quite a widespread frost inland. Some low cloud and mist down some eastern coasts. Lows of between -2 and 4 Celsius. A chilly start to the day on Wednesday with a touch of frost, also some mist and fog patches, which may lift into low-cloud. This cloud lifting and breaking to sunny spells or longer spells of sunshine throughout the day and pleasantly warm in this sunshine. Light winds.


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