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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Saddam Hussein, looking puffy-faced and fatigued, spoke in a tape appearance on state-run television Thursday after U.S. airstrikes began, mocking President Bush and calling the attack a "shameful crime."
Wearing thick, black-rimmed glasses, the Iraqi president mentioned the date in his speech as he read from a notepad a couple of hours after the strike. But U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the message does not conclusively prove he is alive.
Saddam often uses doubles. However, an initial analysis of the tape indicated it appeared to be the Iraqi president, the officials said. A voice analysis is under way at U.S. intelligence agencies to confirm his identity.
His hair grayer than it looked in other recent appearances, Saddam peppered his address with references from the Quran, urging Iraqis to "draw your sword" against the enemy. He described the U.S. president as "little, evil Bush" and blamed the United States, Britain and an "American-Zionist criminal alliance" for the war.
"They will face a bitter defeat, God willing," he said. "You will be able to achieve glory and your despicable infidel enemies will be defeated."
Saddam read verses of poetry meant to inspire his citizens to fight the invaders "so that the truth appears."
He chanted "Allahu akbar" or God is great, and said, "Long live jihad and long live Palestine!"
Saddam appeared less vigorous than during a meeting of his Revolutionary Command Council last week. He wore reading glasses -- something he has avoided in public -- and full military uniform.
There was nothing in the tape that referred specifically to the strike or other events that would determine whether the address was prerecorded or made after the bombs began to fall before dawn in Baghdad.
However, U.S. officials, noting that Saddam was reading from a notepad, said it indicated the production was put together quickly and the address was given after the strike, U.S. officials said.
The White House had no immediate response to Saddam's comments.
The barrage of cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs the United States used to strike the Iraqi capital were designed to take out Saddam himself and other Iraqi leaders.
On Wednesday afternoon, CIA Director George J. Tenet told Bush that U.S. intelligence believed it had a probable fix on the residence where Saddam and other Iraqi leaders would be sleeping in the early morning hours in Baghdad, U.S. officials said. Bush then authorized the strike.
Those other Iraqi leaders were believed to include Saddam's two sons, Qusai and Odai, but officials said it was unclear Thursday whether any of them were near the target or had been killed. Both sons hold high-level security positions in Saddam's regime.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)