The Iraqi leader’s comments came during a televised address marking the anniversary of the end of the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war. His speech comes two days after UN Secretary General Kofi Annan sent a letter to Baghdad outlining conditions necessary for a return of UN weapons inspectors.
Iraq has barred weapons inspectors for four years, fueling speculation that Saddam Hussein’s government is developing weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. has warned of possible military consequences if the UN inspectors are not allowed immediate and unfettered access to Iraq’s weapons facilities.
Saddam did not mention the U.S. by name but said, “The forces of evil will carry their coffins on their backs to die in disgraceful failure, taking their schemes with them, or digging their own graves.”
He went on to warn that any countries that take action against Iraq would “bring death to themselves” in the Arab world.
Saddam called for “equitable dialogue”, but also called on the UN to “honor its obligations under its own resolutions.” In March, the Iraqis gave a list of 19 questions to Annan regarding various complaints and concerns. The questions were circulated to the UN Security Council but there was no formal reply.
Iraq has long maintained that it has fulfilled all of the conditions necessary to lift the strict economic sanctions imposed in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait.
During the speech some 15,000 Iraqis, calling themselves the “Jerusalem Army,” marched through the streets of Baghdad carrying assault rifles and vowing support for the Iraqi leader. Saddam organized the Jerusalem Army in 2000 as a show of support for the Palestinian uprising and of driving the Israelis out of Jerusalem.
“Greetings… to the Arabs in the forefront of whom come the heroic people of Palestine, and to every honorable warrior of the faithful who met his God with a pure heart,” he said.
Key U.S. allies in both Europe and the Middle East have been speaking out against U.S. military intervention in Iraq. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder warned this week that a U.S. attack could destroy the international coalition against terrorism and throw the Middle East into turmoil.