- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2003

From combined dispatches
BAGHDAD A prominent Muslim cleric urged Iraqis and Muslims around the world yesterday to threaten U.S. interests and "set them ablaze" as Baghdad pressed its verbal assault against American efforts to win U.N. authorization for war.
"The entire world, Muslims and non-Muslims, curses the aggressive intentions of the American administration against Iraq, which, God willing, will be frustrated," Abdel-Razzaq al-Saadi, the imam of Umm al-Maarek, or Mother of All Battles mosque, said in his sermon during Friday prayers.
He called on God to drown President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and predicted that Iraq would emerge victorious from the approaching war.
"It is the duty of Muslims today, Iraqis and others, to threaten American interests wherever they are, to set them on fire and to sink their ships. This is jihad in the name of God," the cleric said in the sermon broadcast live on state television.
His sermon was the most fiery and defiant since the United States and Britain began their buildup of troops in neighboring Kuwait ahead of a likely war aimed at ousting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for purportedly failing to disarm.
"Oh, God, strike the oppressors. Oh, God, please shoot down their planes, sink their ships. Oh, God, please make the infidels and aggressors drown. Oh, God, make Bush and Blair drown," said the imam in the packed mosque, which was built after the 1991 Persian Gulf war, described by Saddam as the "mother of all battles."
The cleric denounced Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair as criminals and urged their people to "uproot" them.
"We advise the American and British people to revolt against these criminals and oppressors," he said.
An editorial published yesterday in Al-Thawra, the newspaper of Saddam Hussein's ruling Ba'ath party, called on nations opposed to military action against Iraq to strengthen their "rejection of aggression … and to convince the Bush administration that the cost of any war on Iraq would be much more than what it is dreaming to gain from such aggression."
Meanwhile, Germany urged its citizens to leave Iraq, stepping up earlier warnings. Spain also reissued a Feb. 28 statement calling on Spaniards to leave because of the "rapidly deteriorating international situation."
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri rebuffed a high-level Arab League peace mission that had been scheduled to travel to Baghdad this week. He said top Iraqi officials wouldn't have time to meet with the dignitaries, who included the foreign ministers of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia and Bahrain and the secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa.

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