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Thursday, 8 August, 2002, 18:12 GMT 19:12 UK
Maverick MP meets Saddam Hussein
George Galloway and Saddam Hussein, as shown on Iraqi TV
Galloway said he found Saddam "very calm indeed"
Maverick Labour MP George Galloway said he found Saddam Hussein "calm but determined" during a meeting held in Baghdad.

The Glasgow MP's trip came at a time of mounting speculation that the US is planning military moves to depose the Iraqi leader.

That prospect has led to church groups, a growing number of MPs and military experts to urge Tony Blair to try and dissuade any hurried attack.

On Thursday the opposition Conservatives, for the first time, said that parliament should be recalled so MPs could debate the situation before any action is taken against Iraq.

After his meeting with Saddam Hussein Mr Galloway told the Reuters news agency the Iraqi leader seemed determined to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis but was equally determined to fight if attacked.

Move quickly

"I found him to be calm, very calm indeed, but determined," said Mr Galloway, who has long campaigned for UN sanctions on Iraq to be lifted.

He said the Iraqi leadership did not believe war with the US was inevitable "but if we are to avert it, we'll have to move quickly".

The forces of evil will carry their coffins on their back to die in a disgraceful failure

Saddam Hussein
Earlier Saddam Hussein said he was not frightened by US threats to topple him and warned that those who attacked Iraq would be "digging their own graves".

He said he sought an "equitable dialogue" with the United Nations.

The latest developments came as Labour's private polls reportedly suggest US President George Bush is deeply unpopular in the UK.

Regime goal

The Guardian says the poll findings are said to have come amid frustration among senior cabinet ministers and government advisers at what they see as a lack of a clear American policy on Iraq.

According to King Abdullah of Jordan, who visited the UK last week, Mr Blair has "tremendous" concerns about the impact a war could have.

Mike O'Brien, Foreign Office Minister
Mike O'Brien: Ball in Saddam's court
The UK has stressed the need to tackle Iraq's alleged build-up of weapons of mass destruction.

But senior US figures have spoken of "regime change" being the goal.

On Wednesday, President Bush promised to consult widely before action was taken.

"I promise you that I will be patient, and deliberate, that we will continue to consult with Congress, and of course we'll consult with our friends and allies," he said.


Those words prompted veteran Labour MP Tam Dalyell to renew his calls for MPs to debate possible military action.

In a letter to the prime minister, Mr Dalyell said: "Don't you think you ought to give a straightforward undertaking in the next 24 hours that you will follow the United States and consult elected representatives before participating in an attack on Iraq."

Mr O'Brien, in Libya for historic talks with Muammar Gaddafi, said the ball was in Saddam Hussein's court but allowing weapons inspections would make a difference.

He said: "If international law is complied with, of course the position will then be very different."

Mr O'Brien said a new regime in Baghdad would be "desirable" but getting access for weapons inspectors was the clear goal.

No Saudi support

Iraq's representative in London, Mudhafar Amin, has said the UK could play a "crucial role" in convincing Washington to find a peaceful solution.

Several Labour MPs are concerned over possible action and religious leaders said on Tuesday that war against Iraq would be illegal and immoral.

A further blow to the supporters of military action came as Saudi Arabia said it would not allow US forces to be based in its country.

Germany's Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, has also warned that an attack on Iraq would harm the war on terrorism.

See also:

08 Aug 02 | Middle East
07 Aug 02 | Politics
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11 Jul 02 | Politics
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