Saddam: Iraq ready for war

Iraqis demonstrate in the streets Friday to show support for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and to mark the 12th anniversary of the Gulf War in Baghdad.

(AP Photo)
Published: Saturday, January 18, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 18, 2003 at 1:09 a.m.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Brushing aside any hint of compromise, Saddam Hussein proclaimed Friday that Iraq is ready for war with the United States and warned that his enemies would face ``suicide'' at the gates of Baghdad.

Saddam's strong words added to an atmosphere of urgency that followed the discovery Thursday of 12 empty chemical warheads in Iraq - a find described by U.S. officials as ``troubling and serious.''

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer charged that Iraq hadn't reported the warheads, but he stopped short of declaring them a violation of U.N. resolutions.

He dismissed Baghdad's claims that it had previously reported the rockets and said they were not listed in Iraq's 12,000-page declaration, in which it was required to account for all components of its banned weapons programs. ``The burden is on them to show the world what page it's on,'' Fleischer said.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said evidence suggests at least 11 of the warheads were never loaded with any chemical agent. Whether the 12th - which was taken for tests by U.N. inspectors - had ever contained any chemical agent was unknown.

As U.N. inspectors played down the importance of the find, French President Jacques Chirac, whose country holds veto power at the United Nations, backed the inspectors' appeal for more time to carry out their search.

Despite growing U.S. impatience with Saddam, the top nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei said it would be worth ``a few more months'' to avoid war.

With a second Gulf War looming, a defiant Saddam used the 12th anniversary of the first conflict to tell the world he would defend Baghdad against the United States - despite reports that Arab leaders were trying to persuade him to choose exile instead.

In a 40-minute televised address, Saddam said his nation was fully mobilized.

``The people of Baghdad have resolved to compel the Mongols of this age to commit suicide on its walls,'' Saddam said, comparing the Americans with the Asian warriors who destroyed the city more than 800 years ago. ``Everyone who tries to climb over its walls . . . will fail in his attempt.''

Without using President Bush's name, Saddam compared him to the Mongol general Hologu, son of Genghis Khan, who captured Baghdad in 1258.

Baghdad's ruler at the time surrendered in exchange for his life and that of his family - but Hologu reneged on the deal and executed him.

The spirit of Hologu has returned to possess some, Saddam said Friday, and ``the Hologu army of this age has come to fight Baghdad . . . but the new Hologu will never control Baghdad or the great Iraq.''

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