- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

CAIRO — In a new audiotape — the first purportedly made by Saddam Hussein since U.S.-led forces ousted his regime — the deposed Iraqi leader urges his countrymen to fight foreign occupation.An Australian newspaper said it received the 14-minute tape from two men in Baghdad on Monday who said they were trying to get it to Al Jazeera or Al Arabiya, two Arab satellite television channels.There was no way to confirm if the tired-sounding voice on the tape was that of Saddam, although the accent and phrasing were akin to that of the ousted leader.”Through this secret means I am talking to you from inside great Iraq and I say to you, the main task for you, Arab and Kurd, Shi’ite and Sunni, Muslim and Christian and the whole Iraqi people of all religions, your main task is to kick the enemy out from our country,” the speaker said.By way of establishing that the recording was made recently, the voice on the tape noted some Iraqis had celebrated Saddam’s 66th birthday on April 28 even though he was not in power. The speaker referred to Saddam in the third person, a practice common in Arabic.”It was an Iraqi decision [to celebrate], because they consider Saddam Hussein as a brother or as a father to them. And this is just to express of their free will that nobody forced them to do it or to live in any way against their will. It is their true attitude toward Saddam Hussein,” the speaker said.The speech is interrupted once by coughing and twice by what sounds like water being drunk, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.Asked yesterday about the tape, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said: “We don’t know if the tape is genuine or not. It’s being studied. We don’t know if he’s alive or not.”Last week, the London based Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper said it received a statement from Saddam urging Iraqis to “rise up” against occupation. To reporters familiar with other documents attributed to Saddam, neither the handwriting nor the signature appeared similar, but the newspaper said sources close to Saddam confirmed both were genuine.Saddam’s fate is not known. He was targeted by cruise missiles March 20 in the opening salvo of the war. As U.S. troops converged on Baghdad, American jets dropped bombs on the Mansour neighborhood April 7 after Saddam was reportedly seen there.The latest tape fell into the hands of a reporter for the Sydney newspaper who was approached by two men near the Palestine Hotel. The men asked where to find Al Jazeera or Al Arabiya.When the reporter’s translator pointed toward the hotel and the security cordon manned by coalition forces, one of the men handed the tape over to the translator, saying it was his duty, as an Iraqi, to make sure the tape was made public.The translator said the men spoke with the distinctive accents of Saddam’s Tikrit region.Meanwhile, U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, announced yesterday that coalition forces have taken a former official of Saddam’s Ba’ath Party into custody.Ghazi Hammud, Ba’ath regional chairman in the Kut district, is No. 32 on Central Command’s list of the 55 most-wanted members of Saddam’s regime — and the two of hearts on the deck of cards issued to help identify regime figures.Coalition officials working to rebuild the Iraqi government are trying to sort out which Iraqis will be excluded from a new administration because of their ties to the Saddam regime.Retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the U.S. administrator for Iraq, visited the charred, ransacked Foreign Ministry building in Baghdad yesterday and vowed it would soon be functioning again.”Like most other totalitarian regimes, most of the people that worked in running the country were part of the [Baath Party],” Mr. Garner said. “Some were good, some were bad. You bring everybody back and you can sort out who was good and who was bad. It takes time.”


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