- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2003

KUWAIT CITY, March 24 (UPI) — Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein hailed the resistance of his troops and called them "mujahedin" and the defenders of the whole Arab world in a TV address Monday that was intended to show he was alive and defiant as coalition troops closed in on Baghdad.

The speech was packed with references to the weekend fighting in Um Qasr, Nasariya and Basra as if to confound earlier claims by U.S. officials that his previous television appearance had been taped in advance.

"Every time the invaders leave the desert and attempt to enter our homes they meet our resistance," he said. "The enemy underestimated you — you heroic Iraqis."

Dressed in full military uniform and speaking calmly and without histrionics, Saddam spoke over TV from an anonymous room, flanked by an Iraqi flag and a wall plaque depicting an eagle surmounting the national arms of Iraq. Arabic-speaking experts who monitored the broadcast in Kuwait said they believed it was indeed the real Saddam despite earlier suggestions that other TV appearances had been staged by doubles.

The speech was aimed not only at the Iraqi forces and people — "inspired by the spirit of Jihad" — but at a wider Arab and Islamic audience. He closed his 25-minute speech with the words "long live Palestine, long live Iraq" and said Iraqi martyrs would be "rewarded by paradise and by God."

"We will continue our pact with God and the (Islamic) faithful around the world know we are prepared to sacrifice everything we have to please God and to remind him to humiliate the aggressors and turn their evil upon them," he said.

"We are the soldiers of God in our land, after putting our faith in God. The Iraqi mujahedin are causing our enemy to suffer and to lose everything and as time goes on they will lose more and they will not be able to escape," he said. "We will make it as painful as we can for the enemy so they will retreat before our faith which is endorsed by God. Strike hem, strike them, strike evil so that evil will be defeated and that all our mothers will be able to sleep in peace."

The Iraqi leader claimed his country had done everything a sovereign nation could to cooperate with the United Nations, but that "the aggressors" were clearly intent on invading Iraq anyway.

"All of us in this great nation know how far we have tried to show goodwill," he said. "Always it has been our aim to avoid evil but when evil comes to us armed with the sword of destruction the heroic sons of Iraq have no choice but to fight it."

The speech was also intended to raise the morale of the Iraqi military, singling out for praise individual commanders and units, specifically the 11th Brigade and Column 45. Coalition commanders have acknowledged they were putting up stiff resistance at Um Qasr, Najaf and Nasariya, and that Iraqi units appear to be fighting better in defense of their own land than they did in Kuwait in the first Gulf War 12 years ago.

"I salute the heroes who fight and prepare to give their lives to protect the principles, the values and the great faith granted to us by God," Saddam concluded. "With fear of God in my heart, my pride in you is without limits. Be patient, and God will grant you victory"

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