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Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Iraq urges dialogue to avert war
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Mr Rumsfeld said the US would act in its best interests
Iraq has said it believes there is still a chance of a diplomatic solution to its stand-off with the United States, but that it was ready to defend itself in the event of a war.

"We believe that dialogue has not totally been cut off, but is being blocked by American pressure," Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan told Reuters news agency on Wednesday.


Aggressors... must be crushed

Taha Yassin Ramadan, Iraqi vice-president
Mr Ramadan's comments came amid increasing signs that Washington is preparing to take military action against Iraq to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

On Tuesday, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said America would not wait for unanimous support from other countries in deciding on whether to go to war with Iraq.

Earlier, US President George W Bush reiterated his view that the Iraqi leader must go, telling the Saudi ambassador to the US that Saddam Hussein was a threat to world peace.

'No joke'

Mr Ramadan told Reuters that Iraq took America's warnings seriously.

Taha Yassin Ramadan
Ramadan said Iraq was prepared to defend itself

"We do not consider the American threats a joke, nor do we regard them fatalistically," he said.

"We believe in the right of any people to defend themselves, and in the end we have faith that aggressors... must be crushed."

Mr Ramadan said Iraq believed "dialogue is the correct way to solve any problem".

On Tuesday, Saddam Hussein called for a solution to the deadlock "based on international legitimacy, international law and the UN charter," the official Iraqi News Agency reported.

America has accused Iraq of developing weapons of mass destruction and demanded Baghdad readmit UN weapons inspectors barred from the country since 1998.

Bush 'like Churchill'

Speaking to thousands of US marines at Camp Pendleton in California, Mr Rumsfeld said US President George W Bush would ultimately decide on a course of action based on what he felt was in America's best interests.


It is less important to have unanimity than it is to be making the right decisions and doing the right thing

Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary

Mr Rumsfeld compared Mr Bush's warnings about Saddam Hussein to UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill's stand against Adolf Hitler.

"It wasn't until each country [in Europe] got attacked that they said: 'Maybe Winston Churchill was right. Maybe that lone voice expressing concern about what was happening was right'," he said.

Despite international misgivings about a possible US attack on Iraq, the defence secretary said he was confident America would find support.

"When our country does make the right judgments, the right decisions, then other countries do co-operate," he said.

But, he added, "it is less important to have unanimity than it is to be making the right decisions and doing the right thing".

Iraqi diplomacy

As the US continued to insist that Saddam Hussein had to be dealt with, Iraq launched a diplomatic drive to garner support against a US strike.

President Bush with Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan
Bush has been seeking Arab support

While the Iraqi vice-president held talks in Syria, the Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri won strong backing on a visit to China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Chinese Foreign Minister Tank Jiaxuan said "threatening to resort to force will not solve the problem", state-run Chinese television reported.

Earlier, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned that the Arab world was opposed to war with Iraq, which he said could destabilise the Middle East.

"If you strike Iraq... not one Arab leader will be able to control the angry outburst of the masses," Mr Mubarak told students in Alexandria.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"George Bush insists that he's still mulling over options"
Prof John Garnett, King's College London
"(War) would have a profound effect in the Middle East"
Tony Lloyd, former Foreign Office minister
"The US needs its allies for the long-term"
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal
"Whether Saddam Hussein remains or is removed from power is up to the Iraqi people"

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28 Aug 02 | Middle East
27 Aug 02 | Americas
27 Aug 02 | Business
27 Aug 02 | Middle East
15 Jan 01 | Middle East
28 Aug 02 | Politics
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