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Friday, 4 October, 2002, 11:08 GMT 12:08 UK
Iraqis caught in the middle
Street scene in Baghdad
Iraqis are being asked to back Saddam in a referendum

The Americans may want him gone, but the Iraqi authorities are busy preparing their people to give Saddam Hussein a resounding "yes" in a referendum on 15 October on giving him another seven-year term.


God help us, what can we do?

Shopper in Baghdad
Even as the threat against him grows, "the beloved leader" is the subject of lavish television tributes.

He appears set inside a heart shape, backed by cheery music and a commentary urging Iraqis to say "Yes, Yes, Yes to the leader Saddam Hussein".

But the decision of the UN weapons inspectors to delay their return to Iraq is a major blow to the Iraqi leader, whose government has repeatedly said no new resolution is needed following its agreement to a resumption of inspections.


People here have no cushion to protect them. In 1991, Iraqis still had money, but after 12 years of sanctions they're now desperately poor

Margaret Hassan
Care International
President George W Bush has warned that full compliance is the Iraqi leader's "only choice".

If not, he faces the prospect of seeing his regime swept into the history books by the military might of the world's superpower.

Caught in the middle

Ordinary Iraqis are - once again - caught in the middle, worried about the consequences of war but fatalistic about a future they are helpless to change.

"God help us, what can we do?" asked one woman, shopping on Kerada Street in central Baghdad.


In 1991, there was a justification. We'd gone into Kuwait. But what have we done now? For more than a decade we've not done anything

Senior Iraqi Government official
"It's not in our hands," another man said.

On the streets of Baghdad, daily life goes on. There's little sign of people stockpiling food, in part because they can't afford to and partly because the Iraqi authorities have already given out two months' food rations in advance.

They also say they've seen it all before.

"We're used to these threats," said one young woman.

'No protection'

But aid workers in Iraq are increasingly concerned about the humanitarian impact of renewed conflict.

"People here have no cushion to protect them," says Margaret Hassan of Care International.

Iraqi soldier in Baghdad
There are questions about the loyalty of Iraq's army to Saddam Hussein
"In 1991, Iraqis still had money, but after 12 years of sanctions they're now desperately poor."

"I hope war can be avoided," one Western diplomat in Baghdad said.

"But the Americans are decided and it now seems that Saddam Hussein will have to swallow everything in the new UN resolution."

That includes inspections of his eight presidential compounds which were protected from surprise inspections in a 1998 agreement between Iraq and the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan.

'Pretext for war'

Having finally agreed to accept existing UN resolutions, the Iraqis are now watching the ground-rules for inspections change.

They are convinced that the Americans are trying to push Baghdad into a corner and create a pretext for a war they've already decided to wage - a war about oil and domination more than disarmament.

"In 1991, there was a justification," one senior government official acknowledged. "We'd gone into Kuwait. But what have we done now? For more than a decade we've not done anything."

But as both sides continue preparations for a military showdown, the Iraqi deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, has said an attack on Iraq would not be a "picnic" for the Americans.

Baghdad is vowing to fight back with all it has.

What no-one knows for sure is exactly what it has and whether Baghdad can count on its own army.

And, of course, there's another key question.

Will the Iraqi authorities now bow to the demands being made of them, knowing that, after over 30 years in power, their very survival is at stake?


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03 Oct 02 | Middle East
03 Oct 02 | Middle East
03 Oct 02 | Middle East
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