"We're today directing a world-wide hunt for the blood money that Saddam Hussein and his associates have stolen from the Iraqi people," Treasury Secretary John Snow said. Treasury officials believed it marked the second time since World War II that the government confiscated financial assets.
The assets, which were frozen by the government in 1990, are sitting in accounts at 18 banks, including Citigroup, Bank of America and Wachovia, in the United States.
The plan is to have the funds actually flow to the Iraqi people once Saddam Hussein is ousted from power, Treasury officials said.
Targeting Iraqi Diplomats
The president also asked 68 countries around the world to expel Iraqi diplomats and cease dealing with the current regime, expanding on an operation launched last month to prevent possible attacks by Iraqi intelligence agents masquerading as diplomatic officials. In addition, the administration called for the release of 600 million tons of grain from an emergency grain reserve for what is expected to be a serious humanitarian emergency in Iraq.
With U.S. troops now engaged alongside British and Australian forces, but without the combat support of any other nation, the White House sought to send a public message about the widening scope of the president's 40-nation ad hoc "coalition of the willing," nations who are supportive of military action against Iraq.
"All told, the population of the coalition of the willing is approximately 1.18 billion people around the world," Fleischer said. "The coalition countries have a combined [gross domestic product] of approximately $21.7 trillion. Every major race, religion and ethnic group in the world is represented."
Bush was scheduled to have dinner at the White House tonight with Cameroon President Paul Biya. Cameroon is one of three African countries currently serving on the U.N. Security Council.
Reported by ABCNEWS' John McWethy at the Pentagon and Terry Moran at the White House.