LONDON (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan travels to Iraq on Friday in a last-ditch effort to solve a crisis over weapons inspections and avert American and British military action. The U.S. Congress returns from recess on February 24 and is due to discuss a resolution authorising the use of force. But it is not clear whether President Bill Clinton will wait that long to decide on military action if Annan`s initiative comes to nothing. The commander of U.S. forces in the Gulf, General Anthony Zinni, has said his troops will be ready to strike Iraq if ordered to from the middle of this week. Key events in the countdown to a decision on whether to launch American and British air strikes on Iraq: FEBRUARY 19 United Nations - Annan sets off to trip to Iraq, stopping over in Paris, where he is expected to meet President Jacques Chirac. Wellington - Two surveillance aircraft, a unit of up to 20 special forces commandos and about 50 air force personnel will depart for Gulf. FEB 20 Baghdad - Annan arrives in Iraq for talks with President Saddam Hussein and Iraqi officials on the crisis. Paris - Chirac meets visiting Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan. FEB 21 Kuwait - Kuwait Stock Exchange to conduct mock evacuation as part of measures to protect population against any Iraqi retaliation. FEB 22 Nagano - Winter Olympic Games end. Japan has asked the United States to hold off from military action during the traditional "Olympic Truce". FEB 24 Washington - U.S. Congress returns from recess.