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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
Saddam 'to face referendum'
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein has ruled Iraq with an iron fist since 1979
Iraq is to hold a referendum later this year to decide whether President Saddam Hussein should remain in office, according to state radio.

The vice-chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council of Iraq, Ezzat Ibrahim - the country's second-in-command - is said to be chairing a committee to ensure a "successful result" in the ballot.

An Iraqi oil worker at an oil installation at Beiji in northern Iraq. Oil exports have dropped by 24%
UN sanctions have crippled the Iraqi economy
Saddam Hussein won a similar referendum in 1995, when according to official figures more than 99% of the voters supported the president.

The vote rubber-stamped his rule for a seven-year term which is renewable without limits.

The president, 65, also holds the posts of prime minister, army commander-in-chief, chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council and secretary-general of the ruling Baath party.

He has ruled Iraq with an iron fist since coming to power in 1979.

He has also led the country through two devastating wars - with Iran in the 1980s and then the 1991 Gulf War, after Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait.

This was followed the imposition of United Nations sanctions, which are still in place and have crippled the Iraqi economy.

Iraq has been labelled by the US President George W Bush as belonging to an "axis of evil" - states which support and sponsor terrorism.

It is widely reported that the United States is preparing to take military action against Iraq following its campaign in Afghanistan.

See also:

19 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iraq
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