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Tape Shows Exhausted, Confused Saddam

Tape Shows Exhausted, Confused Saddam

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- In what is purported to be his last known wartime speech -- a video never before televised -- Saddam Hussein appears exhausted, at times confused and seemingly resigned to defeat, but he tells Iraqis that God, somehow, will help them expel the American-British occupiers.

"The faithful will be victorious over the sinners, regardless of the duration of the struggle and the forms it might take," Saddam says. With patience, the "ordeal" can be overcome, he says, and the invaders driven from Iraq.

The videotape, bearing a presidential stamp, was obtained Thursday by Associated Press Television News from a former employee of the Iraqi satellite television channel which, under the regime, was responsible for filming and distributing official presidential video.

The employee said it was made on April 9, the day American troops streamed into central Baghdad and pulled down a towering Saddam statue.

There was no way to authenticate that the tape was made on that day. Nor could it be immediately proven that the speaker on the tape was Saddam -- though Iraqis who watched and listened to the leader for decades believed it was him.

The videotape was still being reviewed by U.S. agencies, said an intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity. He said it was not known when the tape was made and that its authenticity could not be confirmed.

An audiotape of the address was obtained and aired April 18 by Abu Dhabi television, which said it also was told the speech was delivered April 9.

At the same time, Abu Dhabi television also broadcast a videotape, also said to have been made on April 9, showing Saddam in the midst of an enthusiastic crowd in the Baghdad district of Azamiyah, a few miles north of the area occupied by U.S. troops that day.

At the time, two senior Bush administration officials cast doubt on the authenticity of the tapes.

In the videotaped speech, Saddam -- nearing his 66th birthday, and wearing his familiar open-necked olive drab uniform and black beret -- appears deeply fatigued, like someone who had slept little. The bags under his eyes droop more heavily than before. His speech is abnormally slow, and he seldom raises his eyes from the text to look into the camera.

Twice he repeats a sentence of the speech -- not for emphasis, but out of apparent confusion. He seems on edge, not surprisingly for someone whose government has been under devastating air and ground attack for three weeks.

As he prepares to begin the speech, in a generic room with a backdrop of pink-and-orange drapes, he says to aides, "The sooner we finish it, the better."

Then, at the end, Saddam adds an uncharacteristically human note of uncertainty. "How was my reading as a whole?" he asks people off camera, and then adds, "It's OK."

Thickly laced with religious references, Saddam's speech did not strike the most defiant tones of his earlier televised addresses in the first days of the war, which began March 20, speeches in which he told his people their military would humble the U.S. superpower.

Instead, the president seemed to accept the prospect of defeat and occupation. But he said, "The duration of invasion or occupation ... will be the exception, a brief period, compared with the period in which people live free in their homeland."

He said this generation of Iraqis was determined to defend the nation "until the end, as desired by God, in this form or some other form."

His references to a changing "form of struggle" seemed to imply the possibility of a long-term resistance movement or guerrilla war.

"The ordeal, regardless of how bad it might become, requires patience to be overcome, so that those behind it are expelled," he said.

If the April 9 dating is correct, it means the Iraqi president survived an attack two days earlier, when U.S. forces bombed the capital's al-Mansour neighborhood after receiving a tip Saddam had entered a building there.

Since then, Saddam and his sons and aides Qusay and Odai have dropped from sight. The opposition Iraqi National Congress contends they are still in Iraq and have been spotted by INC informants.

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

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