saddam: i'll defy bush to the end

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    Saddam: I'll defy Bush to the end
    By Hugh Muir, Evening Standard
    18 March 2003
    Saddam Hussein today rejected the 48-hour ultimatum issued by President Bush and vowed that Iraqis will fight to their dying breath. In a defiant statement, he said American troops would find Iraqis "behind every rock and tree" ready to die for their country.

    He added: "Not even 10 Americas will be able to separate the people of Iraq from their land, rights, freedom, independence and sovereignty. If it attacks Iraq, it will find Iraqi fighters ready to fight and ready for martyrdom in defence of their country."

    The Iraqi leader said his country had fully co-operated with UN weapons inspectors, saying: "We have a real desire to rid our region and the whole world of weapons of mass destruction."

    According to the report, Saddam told a Tunisian envoy that Iraq once had such weapons to defend itself against Iran and Israel but no longer holds them. "We are not weapons collectors," he said. "But we had these weapons for self-defence when we were at war with Iran for eight years and when the Zionist entity [Israel] was, and it still is, a threat."

    He said the United States should set an example by destroying its own weapons of mass destruction first.

    The Iraqi leader was responding to the speech President Bush gave earlier today in which he warned the world that war is now imminent. Addressing the Iraqi people, he said: "The tyrant will soon be gone. The day of your liberation is near."

    The President said war could begin at any time. "All the decades of deceit and cruelty have now reached an end. Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict at a time of our choosing."

    He said that the conflict will free Iraqis from tyranny. "We will help you to build a new Iraq that is prosperous and free. There will be no more wars of aggression against your neighbours, no more poison factories, no more executions, no more torture chambers and rape rooms."

    But the President also had a warning for the Iraqi military: lay down your arms or risk death. "Do not fight for a dying regime that is not worth your own life," he said.

    "Do not destroy oil wells, a source of wealth that belongs to the Iraqi people. Do not obey any command to use weapons of mass destruction against anyone. War crimes will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished and it will be no defence to say, 'I was just following orders'."

    The President said diplomacy has failed. "For more than a decade, the United States and other nations have pursued patient and honourable efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime without war. That regime pledged to reveal and destroy all of its weapons of mass destruction as a condition for ending the Persian Gulf War in
    1991. Since then, the world has engaged in 12 years of diplomacy.

    He said peace efforts failed "because we are not dealing with peaceful men", adding: "Intelligence leaves no doubt that the Iraqi regime continues to possess some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.

    "This regime has already used weapons of mass destruction against Iraq's neighbours. It has a deep hatred of America and our friends and it has aided, trained and harboured terrorists, including operatives of al-Qaeda."

    He said the danger is clear: "Using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people. The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this threat, but we will do everything to defeat it.

    Instead of drifting toward tragedy, we will set a course toward safety. This danger will be removed."

    The President was scathing about countries which have frustrated his strategy at the UN: "These governments share our assessment of the danger, but not our resolve to meet it.

    "The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours."

    By contrast, he said, many countries are meeting the threat: "Some governments in the Middle East have been doing their part. They have delivered public and private messages urging the dictator to leave Iraq so that disarmament can proceed-peacefully. He has refused." But the President also had a sombre warning for America and her allies: "If Saddam Hussein attempts to cling to power, he will remain a deadly foe. In desperation, he and terrorist groups might try to conduct terrorist operations against the American people and our friends."

    We must, he said, learn the lessons of history: "In the 20th Century, some chose to appease murderous dictators whose threats were allowed to grow into genocide and global war.

    "Free nations have a duty to defend our people, and tonight, as we have done before, America and our allies accept that responsibility."

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