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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- The Iraqi information minister, reading a statement he said was from Saddam Hussein, called Tuesday for a jihad, or holy war, against the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
"The aggression that the aggressors are carrying out against the stronghold of faith is an aggression on the religion, the wealth, the honor and the soul and an aggression on the land of Islam," Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said on national television.
"Therefore, jihad is a duty in confronting them," he added, saying "those who are martyred will be rewarded in heaven. Seize the opportunity, my brothers."
The statement was issued as U.S. forces were reported within 50 miles of Baghdad and as B-52 bombers were pounding Republican Guard positions north of Karbala.
Saddam has delivered two televised addresses since the war began March 20. It was unclear why the Iraqi leader did not appear Tuesday.
"Strike at them, fight them," the statement said. "They are aggressors, evil, accursed by God. You shall be victorious and they shall be vanquished.
"Fight them everywhere the way you are fighting them today," it said. "And don't give them a chance to catch their breath until they declare it and withdraw from the lands of the Muslims, defeated and cursed in this life and the afterlife."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)