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Tuesday, 8 October, 2002, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Iraq rejects Bush speech
Anti-war protester argues with Bush supporters in Cincinnati
Most - but not all - Americans are behind Bush
Iraq has dismissed President George W Bush's speech warning Baghdad to disarm or be disarmed as a "misleading attempt to justify an attack".

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Qatar, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said US and British threats of military action were illegal.

The speech contained misleading information through which Bush is trying to justify an illegitimate attack on Iraq

Naji Sabri
Iraqi Foreign Minister
He accused Mr Bush of trying to justify an illogical and illegitimate attack on Iraq.

In his address to the American people on Monday, Mr Bush said that war was not imminent or unavoidable, but the Iraqi leader must either abandon weapons of mass destruction or face an American-led coalition that would disarm him.

"The time for denying, deceiving, and delaying has come to an end," Mr Bush said.

The speech was aimed more at the US Congress which is expected to vote on a resolution this week authorising Mr Bush to use force against Iraq.

Military option is my last choice... but should we commit our military, we'll be ready

President Bush

Many Americans did not even watch it as major television networks did not carry the speech - they had not been asked by the White House to do so.

Mr Bush repeated his warning on Tuesday during a rally in Knoxville, Tennessee.

"Military option is my last choice, the last choice. But should we commit our military, we'll be ready. We'll be prepared. We'll have a great plan and make no mistake about it, we will prevail," he told supporters.

'Like a beast'

Earlier on Tuesday, the head of the religious affairs committee in the Iraqi parliament, Abdul Aziz Kailani, said Mr Bush was intent on destroying small countries.

Abdul Aziz Kailani said Mr Bush's speech was "full of lies and full of unreasonable argument," Reuters news agency reported.

Open in new window : Who backs war?
Where key nations stand on Iraq

"You [President Bush] are just like a beast which wants to eat small countries and while you should help them you want to destroy them," Mr Kailani said.

In his speech on Monday, Mr Bush set out in stark terms the threat he believed Saddam Hussein - whom he described as a "homicidal dictator addicted to weapons of mass destruction" - posed to Americans.

"Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists," he said. "Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints."

The president said the US did not know how close Iraq was to building a nuclear weapon, but could not afford to wait.

We cannot assume that other countries pose imminent threats
Roseanne Singer, USA

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He also made it plain that any of Saddam Hussein's generals who followed orders to launch a chemical or biological weapons attack would face war crimes charges.

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has warned that any operation against Iraq must have United Nations backing.

"The law does not rule out resorting to force but international rules rule out unilateral force as codified... in the UN Charter," he told the French parliament on Tuesday.

War, he said, "must never be an opportunity or a convenient choice but an extreme which must be envisaged with the greatest gravity".

Public support

A recent public opinion poll suggests that Americans are behind Mr Bush's tough stand on Iraq.

George W Bush
Bush is seeking the backing of Congress

The survey, conducted for TV network CBS and the New York Times, showed two-thirds of respondents supporting military action to topple Saddam Hussein.

However, that support sinks when the issues of major US casualties, Iraqi civilian deaths or a lengthy war are raised.

Tens of thousands of people attended anti-war rallies across the US on the eve of Mr Bush's speech.

Egypt has responded by criticising Mr Bush's "rewriting the rules in the middle of the game", referring to US attempts to force a tough new United Nations Security Council resolution threatening military force if Baghdad backs out of its pledge to allow arms inspections.

The BBC's Kirsty Lang
"As far as the Arab world is concerned they've heard this all before"
Click here to listen to
President George W Bush's full speech
Karen Donfried, German Marshal Fund
"Americans do not support the idea of a unilateral attack"

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08 Oct 02 | Americas
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