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Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
Saddam says poll proves Iraqi resolve
Voters in Iraq's Najaf Province
Voting day brought many public displays of patriotism
Saddam Hussein has described a victory in a referendum on extending his rule as a sign that the Iraqi people are even more determined to resist any American attack.

On Tuesday, the Iraqi leader won 100% backing on whether he should remain president for another seven years.


It was [the Iraqi people's] chance to seize a historic opportunity to take a sincere stand

Saddam Hussein
In his first comments since the poll, he was quoted as telling senior advisers that US threats had boosted the result.

State-controlled newspapers quoted him as saying the results showed the world that Iraq's leadership and its people were united.

"After the referendum, the Iraqi has more confidence in the future and has more readiness to fight if God so wishes," Saddam Hussein told the ruling Revolutionary Command Council late on Wednesday.

Bush warning

"Yes, the [US] challenge played a role," he added.

"It was natural that Iraqis were mobilised by the challenge... It was their chance to seize a historic opportunity to take a sincere stand."

Jack Straw (L) and Colin Powell in Washington
Argument over the UN's Iraq resolution has dragged on for weeks
Official results showing that every one of the country's 11.5 million voters had backed their president, were dismissed by Washington.

On Wednesday, US President George W Bush signed into law a resolution passed by the US Congress authorising him to take military action against Iraq.

Mr Bush warned Baghdad that it would be unwise to doubt US resolve, though he has not yet ordered an attack.

US flag trampled

"Either the Iraqi regime will give up its weapons of mass destruction or, for the sake of peace, the United States will lead a global coalition to disarm that regime," he said.

Saddam Hussein - who has ruled Iraq since 1979 - was the only candidate in the referendum.

Voters had been urged to show their support for the Iraqi leader in defiance of the demands for military action against him from the US and Britain.

During polling, many voters trampled American flags and some signed their ballot-papers in their own blood in a display of loyalty to their leader.


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15 Oct 02 | Middle East
15 Oct 02 | Middle East
15 Oct 02 | Middle East
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