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At The White House: February 19

Return to Showdown in the Gulf

The president says he expects the nation will rally behind him if he gives the order to attack. Wednesday's divisive town hall meeting in Ohio did not appear to shake Mr. Clinton's resolve.

"We hope the Secretary General's mission will succeed but let me be clear, if diplomacy fails we must be and we are prepared to act," the president stressed on Thursday.

"I thought it was a good old fashioned American debate," President Clinton said when asked about the town meeting. "I believe strongly that most Americans support our policy, they support our resolve. I think the overwhelming majority of Americans also want a peaceful resolution to this. But if it's necessary for us to act, I believe America will do what it always does, I believe it will unite, just as it did in 1991. I believe it will unite behind taking the necessary action.

The White House was still smarting from the tongue lashing in Ohio. The Secretary of State was not heckled, but many questions carried heavy doubts.

"I know there are people who do not want us to go to war," Secretary Albright said. "I don't want us to go to war."

The U.N. Secretary General stopped in Paris Thursday on his way to a Sunday meeting with Saddam Hussein. Kofi Annan has been told by Mr. Clinton that the U.S. will not compromise.

"I hope we will be able to say we've done it," Annan told CBS News Correspondent Mike Wallace. "I'm going with an open mind and a very positive spirit and I hope President Saddam Hussein will engage me in the same spirit.

But in Washington preparations are underway. Vice-President Gore has canceled a trip to stay in the nation's capital, Mr. Clinton's top advisors are meeting, and the State Department is considering whether non-essential embassy personnel should leave the region.

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