- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2003

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, April 18 (UPI) — Abu Dhabi Television Friday aired what it called the last speech by then-President Saddam Hussein of Iraq during which he urged his people to be patient, keep their pledge to God and fight the "occupation" as their command will remain firm.

The Arab satellite channel also broadcast a videotape showing a man who appears to be Saddam greeting a crowd of supporters. It dated the tape to April 9 — the same day U.S. forces were rolling into Baghdad, and two days after coalition airplanes dropped bombs on a restaurant in the Iraqi capital where Saddam and his two sons were believed to be meeting.

There was no immediate reaction from U.S. officials, and analysts are examining the tapes to try to verify their authenticity. Neither gives any obvious time reference to support the April 9 date.

In military uniform and standing on the hood of a car, a man who looks to be Saddam waved to supporters in what the network says is the Azamiyah neighborhood of Baghdad. Saddam's son, Qusay, and his personal secretary Abed Hammoud also appear. Abu Dhabi, which did not disclose the source of the tape, said Defense Minister Sultan Hashem Ahmed was also accompanying Saddam.

The crowd shouted "With blood, with soul, we redeem you Saddam" and made the victory sign as their smiling leader kissed Qusay and shook hands with some cheerful Iraqis. The man who appeared to be Saddam, who was surrounded by armed bodyguards, saluted the crowd before stepping into a white car and speeding away.

Rumors have been circulating in Baghdad since Saddam and his ruling clique vanished last week after Baghdad fell to the U.S. forces. Many Iraqis told Arab reporters they saw Saddam praying in a mosque in al-Azamiya; others have said they spotted him driving on Baghdad's streets or in crowds.

In the speech broadcast by Abu Dhabi Friday, only a voice attributed to Saddam was recorded. Addressing the "great (Iraqi) people," he said: "We are not and you are not alone who are exposed to the ordeal of questioning: Should we (fight), to what extent and how … if your country today is faced with invasion and aggression."

He said the Iraqi people were not the only "who generously offered the requested sacrifice to defend the country and the rights of God and honest people which the atheist and corrupt enemy is trying today to violate."

God always promises victory to those who fight their "invaders and enemies of God," the Iraqi leader said, and a "true and clear reading of history" indicates that occupation is the "exception" and "short compared to the time of freedom to people in their homeland."

He said his army command and forces "are determined to win the reward and honor of defending the country and principles until the end as authorized by God."

"We are confident of victory at the end and God is to support us as much as he can get faith and readiness (from the Iraqi people) in the (combat) field," Saddam said. "Remember your promise (to defend Iraq) before God and all good people. God is capable of granting you victory. … Otherwise, you will pay the price of your weakness."

In what some have interpreted as an allusion to going underground, he said: "If you want to ask about your command, it is firm and nothing could shake it not now nor in the future (and will remain) like it was in the past."

Saddam concluded his speech in his usual manner by saying: "God is Great. Long live our glorious nation and Fedayeens in Iraq and from the great Arab nation. Long live Iraq and long live free Arab Palestine."

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