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Thursday, 8 August, 2002, 07:06 GMT 08:06 UK
Defiant Saddam addresses Iraqis
Iraqis torch an American flag at a demonstration in Baghdad 05 August 2002
Iraqis have demonstrated against US military talk
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is making a live televised speech marking the anniversary of the end of the 1980-1988 war with Iran.

The speech on "Great Victory Day" is widely expected to address speculation that the United States is preparing an attack on his country.

American officials have made clear that no decision had yet been taken on military action.

On Wednesday Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said his country would not give in to pressure from the United States and Britain over arms inspections.

Speaking in an interview with the BBC in Baghdad, Mr Sabri reiterated that Iraq would only readmit United Nations arms inspectors if the economic sanctions against Baghdad were also lifted.

'Diktats'

He also warned that Iraq would defend itself if attacked, and ridiculed US and British claims that the country was developing weapons of mass destruction or threatening its neighbours.

Naji Sabri
Sabri: "Iraq will defend itself"

"Where is this threat? This is nonsense," Mr Sabri said.

He laid out a number of conditions that Iraq wanted addressed at the same time - notably the lifting of economic sanctions and the guarantee of Iraq's security and sovereignty.

But when it was suggested that this would be unacceptable to the UN, the US and Britain, he said that the Iraqi leadership "would not give in to diktats".

Mr Sabri said that allowing the weapons inspectors back without any conditions would return Iraq to what he called "the political minefield of the last decade when UN inspectors were in the country".

'Regime change'

He said previous weapons inspectors had provided information and intelligence to the US and Britain, and that without guarantees that this would not happen again there was bound to be a confrontation that would be used as a pretext for war.

A woman walks by a Saddam Hussein poster in Baghdad
Saddam Hussein will address the nation on Thursday
Mr Sabri's comments come after Iraqi overtures to discuss arms inspections were dismissed by Washington as delaying tactics.

UN arms inspectors, imposed on Iraq after the Gulf War, pulled out before a US-led air strike in 1998. They were not allowed back in.

US President George W Bush has repeatedly said he is committed to a "regime change" in Iraq, but on Wednesday he promised to consult widely before action was taken.

"I promise you that I will be patient, and deliberate, that we will continue to consult with Congress, and of course we'll consult with our friends and allies," he said.

But his Vice-President, Dick Cheney, has warned that even readmitting weapons inspectors might not be enough.

Opposition

And if Mr Bush does consult US allies, he knows that he will not like much of what he hears.

Long-time US ally Saudi Arabia reiterated on Wednesday that it would not allow the US to attack Iraq from bases on its soil.

And the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, warned that an attack on Iraq would harm US anti-terrorism efforts.

"It would be less easily understood as an act of defence and could destroy the international alliance against terror," Mr Schroeder, who is heading into an election campaign, told the Bild newspaper.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rob Watson
"The fate of Saddam Hussein will have to be debated"
Iraq's Foreign Minister, Naji Sabri
"We have no problem with the return of inspectors, if it is done in accordance with the UN agenda"
Brian Constant, Middle East association
"Israel should be the first priority"
The BBC's Rageh Omaar
"He was restating his belief that any attack on Iraq is an attack on all arabs and all muslims"

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07 Aug 02 | Middle East
07 Aug 02 | Middle East
07 Aug 02 | Middle East
07 Aug 02 | Politics
05 Aug 02 | Middle East
02 Aug 02 | Middle East
02 Aug 02 | Middle East
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