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Thursday, 8 August, 2002, 19:19 GMT 20:19 UK
US derides Saddam's 'bluster'
Saddam Hussein
Saddam said Iraq was prepared to defend itself
The United States has dismissed a speech by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in which he said that any attack on his country would be doomed to failure.

In his first public remarks since US President George W Bush vowed last month to see him replaced, Saddam Hussein said that "evil people" who threatened Arab and Muslim countries would be left "in the dustbin of history".


The forces of evil will carry their coffins on their back to die in a disgraceful failure

The televised address came amid growing speculation that the US is planning to attack Iraq over its failure to readmit United Nations weapons monitors, who have been barred from the country since 1998.

US State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the speech was "bluster from an internationally isolated dictator, demonstrative yet again that his regime shows no intention to live up to its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions".

And UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the Iraqi president's speech contained no evidence of a change in attitude towards arms inspections.

"At this stage it seems as if they are not giving in an inch, but I think we are at early stages yet," he told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.

Pro-Saddam rally in Baghdad
Saddam urged Iraqis to be prepared
Saddam Hussein did not specifically refer to the issue of weapons inspections, but said the UN Security Council should reply to questions raised by Iraq and honour its obligations.

The Iraqi leader was apparently referring to 19 questions regarding arms inspections and economic sanctions submitted by Iraq to Mr Annan in March, which the Security Council has not yet responded to.

The BBC's Rageh Omaar, in Baghdad, says the speech was an unequivocal re-statement of Iraq's position - UN weapons inspections can only resume if Iraq has guarantees about its security and sovereignty, and sanctions are lifted.

Iraq recently invited UN arms teams to visit the country for talks on resuming inspections, but the US has dismissed the move as a ploy.

Appeal for peace

In his address, marking the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, Saddam Hussein said the way to achieve "peace and security" was through "equitable dialogue and on the basis of international law and international covenants".

But, he said, "the enemy" refused to listen to appeals from Arab and Muslim countries and had "rejected all the initiatives and calls for peace, which we had proposed more than once".

President Bush
Bush says Iraq poses "real threats"
He said that history had shown that attacks on Arabs and Muslims had always been defeated and would continue to be repelled.

To coincide with the speech, about 15,000 members of the president's "Jerusalem Army" - set up two years ago with he express aim of driving the Israelis out of Jerusalem - marched through Baghdad in a 90-minute display of support.

The marchers carried photographs of Saddam Hussein and placards bearing slogans such as "Long live Saddam" and "Down with USA".

And an Iraqi man on the streets of the capital, Hadi Abbass, told Reuters news agency: "We are not afraid of America, (President) Bush or others.

"We are ready to sacrifice our blood, soul and children for the president."

International concern

There has been growing concern among allies of the US about possible American plans for military action against Iraq.

The UK Minister for Middle East Affairs, Mike O'Brien, said war could be avoided if Iraq readmitted weapons inspectors, while German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder warned that an attack on Iraq would be a mistake.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal has also ruled out allowing the US to attack Iraq from Saudi territory.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rageh Omaar reports from Baghdad
"The Iraqi leader has now laid out his conditions"
Saddam Hussein
"The forces of evil will carry their coffins on their back to die in a disgraceful failure"

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08 Aug 02 | Media reports
08 Aug 02 | Middle East
07 Aug 02 | Middle East
07 Aug 02 | Middle East
08 Aug 02 | Politics
07 Aug 02 | Middle East
07 Aug 02 | Politics
02 Aug 02 | Middle East
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