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The BBC's Barbara Plett in Baghdad
"There have been some demonstrations"
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The BBC's Rageh Omaar
"A decade on, Saddam Hussein is still very much in power"
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Tuesday, 16 January, 2001, 17:10 GMT
Aziz blames West for Gulf War
Iraq's deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz (centre) with Ramsey Clark (left) and James Jennings
Tariq Aziz (centre) greets the US activists in Baghdad
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz has said that the 1991 Gulf War was unloosed by Western powers fearful of Arab strength in the region.

He was speaking on the 10th anniversary of the war, which took place following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.

Mr Aziz spoke before a group of about 70 American activists, who are in Baghdad in defiance of United Nations sanctions against Iraq.

The group - which includes a former US Attorney General, Ramsey Clark - delivered aid and urged the United States to lift the decade-old sanctions.

'Israeli aggression'

Saddam statue over faces of Bush snr, Thatcher, King of Saudi Arabia, Emir of Kuwait
A statue of Saddam towers over the faces of his Gulf War opponents
Mr Aziz said that the invasion of Kuwait had merely been a pretext for the West to take action in support of its own illegitimate interests in the region.

After the end of the Iran-Iraq war - which had lasted throughout the 1980s - Iraq became more powerful and capable of resisting Israeli aggression, Mr Aziz said.

Arabs were no longer subservient to Israel, he said, and this was what led to the Gulf War.

Sanctions crumbling

The UN sanctions regime, imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, is crumbling despite American and British efforts to maintain it.

An increasing number of humanitarian flights are landing in Baghdad, bringing aid and sympathetic visitors, and a number of Western oil companies are eager to do business with Iraq.

George W Bush
Iraq is not expecting sympathy from its old enemy's son
Many countries are pressing for the sanctions to be lifted, and activists say they cause more harm to the Iraqi people than to the regime of Saddam Hussein.

A handful of demonstrators from the Chicago-based group Voices in the Wilderness protested at UN headquarters in New York on Monday, wearing shirts which read: "Nations must unilaterally break the siege of Iraq."

The protesters argued that this week was not the anniversary of a war that had ended, but of one that was still going on.

"The war didn't end", said Kathy Kelly, a co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness. "It changed into economic warfare."

Weapons inspections

The US insists that the sanctions will remain in place until Iraq proves it has no weapons of mass destruction.

UN weapons inspectors were pulled out of Iraq at the end of 1998 and have not returned.

Speaking earlier to the American activists in Baghdad, Mr Aziz said he did not expect the new American administration to be any more sympathetic to Iraq than its predecessors were.

"We are not going to bet on the new administration," Mr Aziz said, reportedly drawing wry laughter from the Americans.

The incoming President, George W Bush, is the son of the man who led the Gulf War against Iraq 10 years ago.

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See also:

17 Dec 00 | Middle East
Iraq dismisses Powell's threats
01 Dec 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Saddam steps up defiance
16 Jan 01 | Media reports
Press marks Gulf War anniversary
15 Jan 01 | Middle East
Flashback: Desert Storm
15 Jan 01 | Middle East
Gulf War: Iraq's legacy of pain
16 Jan 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Saddam and the future
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