The Bush administration is ready to formally declare that Iraq has violated a UN resolution on disarmament, according to senior officials.
The declaration would put the U.S. on a course toward possible war early next year. But the officials said the decision isn't an immediate trigger for war.
Instead, they said it will launch a diplomatic campaign aimed at convincing allies that Saddam Hussein has violated the UN resolution. The resolution required Saddam to get rid of weapons of mass destruction -- or face possible military action.
The officials also said Bush will probably not decide whether to go to war until late January or early February.
The president's decision will be announced by Secretary of State Colin Powell. It marks a crucial turning point in the standoff with Iraq.