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Thursday, 8 August, 2002, 17:56 GMT 18:56 UK
Saddam warns against Iraq attack
Saddam Hussein
Saddam said Iraq was prepared to defend itself
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has warned that any attack on Iraq will be doomed to failure, and stressed that peaceful dialogue was the way forward.

In his first public remarks since US President George W Bush vowed last month to see the Iraqi leader replaced, Saddam Hussein said that "evil people" who threaten Arab and Muslim countries would be left "in the dustbin of history".

The forces of evil will carry their coffins on their back to die in a disgraceful failure

The televised address came amid growing speculation that the United States is planning to attack Iraq over its failure to readmit United Nations weapons monitors, who have been barred from the country since 1998.

Saddam Hussein did not specifically refer to the issue of weapons inspections, but said the UN Security Council should reply to questions raised by Iraq and honour its obligations.

The Iraqi leader was apparently referring to 19 questions regarding arms inspections and economic sanctions submitted by Iraq to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in March, which the Security Council has not yet responded to.

Pro-Saddam rally in Baghdad
Saddam urged Iraqis to be prepared
The BBC's Rageh Omaar, in Baghdad, says the speech was an unequivocal re-statement of Iraq's position - UN weapons inspections can only resume if Iraq has guarantees about its security and sovereignty, and sanctions are lifted.

Iraq has recently invited UN arms teams to visit the country for talks on resuming inspections, but the US has dismissed the move as a ploy.

Mr Annan said he saw no sign in the Iraqi president's speech of a shift in the country's refusal to readmit UN arms inspectors.

Mr Annan said he had not received a response from the Iraqis to a letter he wrote them two days ago in which he said Baghdad would have to send a "formal invitation" for UN inspectors to return to Baghdad before further substantive talks could be held on weapons issues.

"I think the president's statement, insisting on answers to the 19 questions, doesn't show any flexibility from their previous position," he said.

Appeal for peace

In his address, marking the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, Saddam Hussein said the way to achieve "peace and security" was through "equitable dialogue and on the basis of international law and international covenants".

But, he said, "the enemy" refused to listen to appeals from Arab and Muslim countries and had "rejected all the initiatives and calls for peace, which we had proposed more than once".

President Bush
Bush says Iraq poses "real threats"
He said that history had shown that attacks on Arabs and Muslims had always been defeated and would continue to be repelled.

To coincide with the speech, about 15,000 members of the president's "Jerusalem Army" - set up two years ago with he express aim of driving the Israelis out of Jerusalem - marched through Baghdad in a 90-minute display of support.

The marchers carried photographs of Saddam Hussein and placards bearing slogans such as "Long live Saddam" and "Down with USA".

And an Iraqi man on the streets of the capital, Hadi Abbass, told Reuters news agency: "We are not afraid of America, (President) Bush or others.

"We are ready to sacrifice our blood, soul and children for the president."

International concern

There has been growing concern among allies of the US about possible American plans for military action against Iraq.

The UK Minister for Middle East Affairs, Mike O'Brien, said war could be avoided if Iraq readmitted weapons inspectors, while German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder warned that an attack on Iraq would be a mistake.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal has also ruled out allowing the US to attack Iraq from Saudi territory.

The BBC's Rageh Omaar reports from Baghdad
"The Iraqi leader has now laid out his conditions"
Saddam Hussein
"The forces of evil will carry their coffins on their back to die in a disgraceful failure"
Former UK ambassador to Iraq, Sir Terence Clark
"The speech is filled with typical rhetoric, bombast and bluster"

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See also:

08 Aug 02 | Media reports
08 Aug 02 | Middle East
07 Aug 02 | Middle East
07 Aug 02 | Middle East
08 Aug 02 | UK Politics
07 Aug 02 | Middle East
07 Aug 02 | UK Politics
02 Aug 02 | Middle East
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