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Saddam Appears on Iraqi TV

Saddam Appears on Iraqi TV

Posted - Mar. 24, 2003 at 7:02 a.m.



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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- With U.S.-led forces closing in on Baghdad, a composed Saddam Hussein tried to rally his people and his troops with a stirring address Monday in which he vowed that allied forces would be crushed and "victory will be ours soon."

In Washington, a senior U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said U.S. intelligence had determined that Saddam's speech was recorded. However, it is unclear when it was taped -- hours or weeks before the strikes.

Saddam Appears on Iraqi TV

The Iraqi president appeared in full military uniform and seemed more robust and relaxed than during his last nationally televised address on Thursday, which followed the first round of cruise missile attacks on his capital. There had been unconfirmed reports that he was killed or injured in those attacks.

"Iraq will strike the necks (of each enemy fighter)," he said. "Strike them, and strike evil so that evil will be defeated."

Taunting the allies, he asked: "Have you found what the devil that besets your soul promised you in Iraq?"

Saddam urged loyal Iraqis to cut the throats of the invaders and insisted that Iraqi troops would prevail in the fight against a more technologically advanced enemy. He also made specific reference to U.S. tactics and the fighting around Umm Qasr, in an obvious attempt to show that the address was relatively current.

"Those who are believers will be victorious. In these decisive days, the enemy tried not using missiles and fighter jets as they did before. This time, they sent their infantry troops. This time, they have come to invade and occupy your land," he said.

But American officials said nothing in Monday's speech proved it had been made since the beginning of hostilities. The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described a growing suspicion within U.S. intelligence agencies that Saddam had prerecorded several messages to air during the fighting.

They said Saddam would have to make a specific reference to a recent event to prove he's alive.

Officials say it is highly unlikely Saddam would use a double to give a speech; the Iraqis know such a ruse would probably be detected. Look-alikes, officials said, are more useful in motorcades and similar functions that don't require public speaking.

British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said he was not convinced that the address was current.

"The contemporary events referred to ... did not appear to me to be unambiguously contemporary," he said.

"And had he have wanted to indicate that this was live, or was recent, there were many events that he could have referred to, which he clearly did not," he said. "So that is why we are continuing to analyze the situation."

In Saddam's address on Thursday, the Iraqi leader looked haggard and appeared at a loss at times, shuffling his papers to find his next line.

On Monday, Saddam appeared relatively rested and spoke with confidence.

However, Saddam repeatedly collected the papers from which he was reading and tapped his fingers against the worn-looking reading table.

The backdrop was a white sheet. Saddam normally holds meetings or gives statements in palaces or other grand buildings but has recently hunkered down in rooms with beams, no windows and no discernible backdrops.

Praising his troops, Saddam said Iraqi fighters were "causing the enemy to suffer and to lose every day."

"As time goes by, they will lose more and they will not be able to escape lightly from their predicament," he said. "We will make it as painful as we can."

Saddam said American and British forces had "become entangled" in Iraq's desert, with "Iraqi residents surrounding them and aiming their fire at them."

Addressing the people of Iraq's cities -- Basra, Baghdad, Mosul and elsewhere -- Saddam warned that the enemy will intensify its raids as their troops suffer casualties on the ground.

"Be patient. God's victory is coming.... Be tolerant," he added.

Saddam said the ground battles were going well and Iraqi troops had been able to inflict great losses on the enemy. He praised his commanders, several of them by name, saying their units fought fiercely against coalition troops.

Among those he named were the commanders of the 51st, 11th and 18th divisions, which are posted in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city.

He told the people of Basra, which has been isolated but not occupied by allied forces, to be patient because "victory is imminent."

Saddam said the allies were "trying to avoid engaging our forces" -- a clear reference to the U.S. strategy of avoiding having to enter provincial cities -- adding that "they are using their warplanes to attack our troops without engaging them in fighting."

"Whenever they penetrated our territory, they were faced with fierce resistance from Iraqi people, tribes, party members, Saddam's Fedayeen and security forces," he said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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