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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 2 April, 2003, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Saddam urges Iraqis to fight
Saddam Hussein
Experts believe some speeches are pre-recorded
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has again tried to rally his country in two statements read out on Iraqi television.

On Tuesday night, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf read out the speech purporting to come from Saddam Hussein which urged Iraqis to fight the "evil aggressors".

A second announcement, read by a news announcer, offered a reward of 10m dinars ($3,000) for the capture of an enemy spy or agent.

But the US says the statement raises more questions about the Iraqi leader's whereabouts.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said it was "interesting" that Saddam Hussein had not appeared in person himself.

There has been mounting speculation over whether the Iraqi president is alive or dead, after an initial air strike targeted the Iraqi leadership in Baghdad at the outset of the war.

The BBC's Rob Watson in Washington says the Bush administration is taking every opportunity it can to raise questions about whether Saddam Hussein is alive or dead.

Cover-up?

In Tuesday's message, Saddam Hussein urged his people to wage jihad, or holy war, against coalition forces.

Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf reads statement from Saddam Hussein on Iraqi TV

"Hit them, fight them! They are evil aggressors. You will be victorious and they will be defeated," the statement said.

The United States, however, dismissed the speech as "nothing new".

The BBC's security correspondent, Frank Gardner, says it would be hard to see the Iraqi Government function as a headless regime because it has had a strong man at the top for so long.

He says it is possible that there could be a Soviet politburo-type cover-up, where Saddam Hussein is in worse shape than the regime would like to admit and that they are hoping he will recover.

Appearances 'pre-recorded'

Saddam Hussein has appeared on television several times since the start of the US-led campaign to topple him, but there is debate as to whether the broadcasts were live or pre-recorded.

Our security correspondent says Western governments think it is strange that at such a critical time - when his Republican Guard units are starting to get engaged, when his people are getting pounded by bombs - Saddam Hussein got his information minister to deliver his latest speech.

Intelligence analysts believe footage of Saddam Hussein wearing glasses and reading a defiant statement, broadcast 12 hours after the first missile strike on Baghdad, was probably genuine.

Our correspondent says the failure to determine whether Saddam Hussein is alive or dead shows just how weak Western intelligence is.

But, he says, what they do point out is that the bodyguard who is normally seen beside Saddam Hussein has in recent days been seen beside another leading member of the regime and they think that is possibly significant.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Roland Buerk
"Coalition commanders had expected the Iraqi leader to appear in person"



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