Saddam Lavishes Praise on Army
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ President Saddam Hussein praised Iraq’s army Saturday, ``celebrating and honoring″ the soldiers who fought in the 1991 Gulf War _ a conflict Saddam relentlessly claims as an Iraqi victory.
The entire Iraqi political and military leadership _ except Saddam _ gathered Saturday morning in their olive green military uniforms for a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in central Baghdad to mark Iraq’s Army Day.
Saddam, who appears in public only sporadically, spoke later for 15 minutes on national television, invoking the names of Arab leaders and military campaigns dating back centuries.
``We are celebrating and honoring the army of the glorious (Iran-Iraq war) and the Immortal Mother of All Battles (the Gulf War),″ said Saddam, who wore a dark suit and tie and read from a prepared text.
Saddam’s irregular public appearances have prompted rumors that he is suffering health problems. But the Iraqi leader showed no signs of illness Saturday and has appeared in public or on television several times recently.
He was present at a military parade on Dec. 31, appeared on television leading a Cabinet session and was also shown smoking a cigar with a visiting Egyptian delegation.
Jan. 17 marks the 10-year anniversary of the Gulf War. Saddam’s speech did not mention the specifics of that conflict and no major events are scheduled.
But Saddam and his ministers routinely refer to the war as an Iraqi triumph.
``Since the enemy did not accomplish their goals, they are considered to have lost the war,″ Iraq’s Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Sultan Hashim Ahmed said at the wreath-laying ceremony.
Before the Gulf War, Army Day was marked by a massive military parade. But the ceremonies have been low-key over the past decade, with Iraq under comprehensive economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations.