Saddam Urges Iraqis to Defend Themselves
Jan. 17, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ A defiant Saddam Hussein called on his people Friday to rise up and defend the nation against a new U.S.-led attack and promised that Iraq's enemies would face ``suicide'' at the gates of his capital.
The 40-minute televised address, delivered on the 12th anniversary of the Gulf War, revealed no sign that Saddam was prepared to bow to demands of the United Nations nor step down as has been suggested by Arab leaders as a way to avoid war.
``The people of Baghdad have resolved to compel the Mongols of this age to commit suicide on its walls,'' Saddam said, referring to the United States. ``Everyone who tries to climb over its walls ... will fail in his attempt.''
He said the Iraqi nation was fully mobilized against the threat of a new conflict and told President Bush to ``keep your evil away from the mother of civilization.''
``The whole nation will rise in defense of its right to live,'' Saddam said. ``Their (aggressors') arrows will go astray or backfire, God willing.''
In an appeal for Arab support, Saddam said ``Western peoples and circles'' had long interfered with the nations of the Middle East, ``in particular Zionist Jews and Zionists who are not of the Jewish people.''
``Long live Palestine, free and Arab, from the (Mediterranean Sea) to the (Jordan) river,'' he said.
Saddam didn't refer to Bush by name but alluded to him as Hologu, the grandson of Genghis Khan, who destroyed Baghdad and killed its ruler in 1258.
Repeated references to Baghdad, rather than Iraq, appeared to be a sign that Saddam plans to rally his troops around the capital for a decisive battle aimed at inflicting as many casualties as possible on U.S. forces, if Bush decides on a military attack to force Iraqi disarmament.
On Jan. 17, 1991, a U.S.-led coalition launched devastating air attacks against Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, opening Operation Desert Storm, which drove Iraqi invaders out of Kuwait.
Saddam has depicted the events of 1991 as a victory because Iraq stood up to a superpower and because his regime managed to survive invasion and subsequent uprisings.
``The scheming of attackers backfired in that aggression, which they are continuing until the present day, all backed by aggression and wishful thinking,'' Saddam said.
With the possibility of a new war looming, Saddam called on Iraqis to ``hold your swords and guns up high to remind those who might under illusions ... that your country will stand firm.''
He said the Bush administration has been ``pushed by Zionists and interest-seekers to play a role of wild and destructive instincts instead of the civilized behavior that is expected in this age.''
Immediately after the speech, several thousand Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad to voice their support for the president.
The anniversary did not hinder U.N. weapons inspectors, who pressed on with their task to determine if Iraq has disarmed as it maintains. Bush has warned that this is Iraq's last chance to give up mass destruction weapons or face war.
The current crisis erupted after the United States and Britain accused Iraq of maintaining weapons of mass destruction banned under U.N. resolutions approved after the Gulf war. They threatened military force unless Saddam disarmed.
Tens of thousands of American and British troops, as well as warplanes and naval vessels, are massing in the Gulf to back up the warning.
The Iraqi government says it no longer has any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons and submitted a 12,000-page declaration to the United Nations last month that it said proved its case.
Chief inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei have said Iraq's declaration is incomplete and fails to support its claims to have destroyed banned weapons. Blix and ElBaradei will travel to Baghdad for talks Sunday and Monday in which they will warn Iraq to provide more information or face war.
Inspectors visited military industry sites in the Faluga area west of Baghdad, and a farm near Juwesma, southwest of the capital on Friday. They had to pass a protest by some 200 members of the Iraqi journalists' union who protested against them outside the hotel where the U.N. staff live.
On Thursday, inspectors found what they said were 11 warheads designed to carry chemical weapons that hadn't been disclosed to international authorities. Iraq insisted the rockets were old and had been declared already.
Blix, in Paris for a meeting with French President Jacques Chirac, said Friday he was unsure if the rockets were listed in the 12,000-page declaration.
``I think what I need now is to get some extra information from my inspectors in Iraq. I think we were lucky. We found this by investigating a bunker and found these warheads.''
Blix and ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. nuclear agency, are seeking more time for the inspections, and Chirac supported them despite growing American impatience.
``It is only wise to agree to this request,'' Chirac said. ``Give them more time to work to bring about a more detailed response.''