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Wednesday, 4 October, 2000, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
Saddam threatens Israel
Iraqi's have demonstrated against the killings
Palestinian killings have enraged Iraqis
By Middle East correspondent Frank Gardner

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has said his country could destroy Israel if it was given access to land next to the Jewish state.

On Wednesday, Iraq's state controlled newspapers carried the president's threat, which he made following the recent bloody clashes between Israelis and Palestinians.

Iraqis are calling the threat one of the strongest statements by Saddam Hussein in years.

An idle boast or a serious threat to Israel? With Iraq's unpredictable leader, it is hard to tell.

The government controlled press quoted the president as saying Iraq could put an end to Zionism in a very short time if only it was given a piece of land next to Israel.

That is highly unlikely to happen, but Iraq did physically attack Israel during the Gulf War nine years ago by firing 39 Scud missiles at the Jewish state.

Iraqis say the clashes over the last few days between Israeli forces and Palestinians have enraged their president.

Angry outburst

On Tuesday he was seen on television banging his fist on the table in anger, criticising Arabs for not doing enough in response to Israeli killings in the Palestinian territories.

He said the great people of Iraq were ready to destroy Zionism right now and he called on Arabs to brandish their swords and make the sacrifices needed.

Iraq has also been calling for a holy war to liberate Jerusalem from Israeli control. President Saddam Hussein has said Iraq did not need to wait for sanctions to be lifted before striking Israel.

The United States says it closely monitors Iraq for any signs of military activity, but United Nations inspectors looking for Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction have not been in the country for nearly two years now.

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See also:

04 Oct 00 | Middle East
Eyewitness: Anger and mourning in Gaza
01 Oct 00 | Middle East
Arab world condemns Israel
04 Oct 00 | Middle East
Feelings run high at the UN
02 Oct 00 | Media reports
Israel apportions blame
02 Oct 00 | Middle East
Mubarak backs calls for Arab summit
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