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Monday, 8 April, 2002, 07:02 GMT 08:02 UK
Iraq vows to defy Western 'enemy'
Saddam Hussein and Revolutionary Council leaders
Saddam Hussein compared Iraqis to the Palestinians
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has responded defiantly to calls for some future military action against Baghdad by Washington and London.

We will fight with the reeds of the marshes, with stones, missiles, aircraft and with all we have

Saddam Hussein
Speaking at an extended cabinet meeting on Sunday, Saddam Hussein said if necessary the Iraqi people would "fight with daggers" against a sophisticated enemy.

His speech follows direct warnings by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair that action would be taken if Iraq failed to let United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country without conditions.

In a keynote speech in Texas after meeting US President George W Bush, Mr Blair said Britain, America and the EU should be prepared to act wherever terrorism or weapons of mass destruction threatened them.

He said that such action was not imminent but would be taken in a "calm, measured, sensible but firm way". Mr Bush said earlier that the Iraqi leader should go.

Palestinian comparison

The Iraqi president called for resistance to any Western military action.

Mr Blair and Mr Bush
Bush and Blair called for complete access for weapons inspectors
He told senior officials - including cabinet ministers, air defence commanders and his son, Qusay, who heads the Republican Guard - that they were "right" and therefore stronger than the "enemy".

He compared the Iraqi situation to that of the Palestinians.

"If half of your air defences were destroyed, you would fight with the other half," he said.

"If the other half were destroyed, you would fight with daggers, as your brothers in Palestine are doing now."

"We will fight with the reeds of the marshes, with stones, missiles, aircraft and with all we have," he added.

Little room to manoevre

Saddam Hussein's focus will now switch to the UN, with Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri travelling to New York in little over a week for talks with Secretary General Kofi Annan.

If necessary the action should be military and again, if necessary and justified, it should involve regime change

Tony Blair
UK prime minister
But the BBC's Rageh Omaar says Iraq will have little room to manoeuvre after the direct warnings.

Mr Bush and Mr Blair have indicated that anything short of a complete and total Iraqi acceptance of unfettered access for UN inspectors could lead to military action.

But senior Iraqi officials have for months demanded that weapons inspectors would have to undertake to finish their work in a set period, after which UN sanctions will be lifted.

The BBC's Rageh Omaar
"This question of talks with the United Nations is critical now"
See also:

08 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Blair flies back to Iraq storm
07 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Blair faces revolt over Iraq
06 Apr 02 | Americas
Allies sit down to 'mammoth task'
07 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Blair faces dissent over Iraq
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