BAGHDAD: A defiant President Saddam Hussein marked the 12th anniversary of the 1991 Gulf War yesterday with a vow to defeat US troops here.
The Iraqi leader said he had mobilised his army and drawn up a plan to counter any invasion by US forces now massing in the Gulf region.
Saddam’s speech, marking the anniversary of the start of the Gulf War, came a day after UN weapons inspectors in Iraq said they had found empty rocket warheads designed to carry chemical warfare agents.
He said Western forces he described as “crows of evil” were still “harbouring evil” against Iraq 12 years after the war.
“We are determined to defeat the aggressors. We have mobilised our abilities, including those of the army, people and leadership,” he said in the text of a televised speech.
“Baghdad, its people and leadership, is determined to force the Mongols of our age to commit suicide at its gates,” Saddam said, referring to the Mongol armies who sacked the city, then the capital of the Islamic state and centre of civilisation in 1258, ending the Abbasid Caliphate.
UN weapons chief Hans Blix, who would have been in London yesterday as part of a diplomatic tour ending here tomorrow, said Iraq must prove it had destroyed banned weapons to defuse a “very dangerous” situation.
A US official said the discovery of the warheads did not amount to a “smoking gun” that could trigger war, while Gen Hussam Mohammad Amin, the head of Iraq’s National Monitoring Directorate, dismissed it as a “storm in a teacup”.
Gen Amin said Iraq had declared the empty weapons casings found on Thursday to the United Nations last month.
“These rockets are expired ... they were in closed wooden boxes ... that we had forgotten about,” he said.
A new military intervention could be triggered if the inspectors, who renewed their searches yesterday, find sufficient evidence that Saddam is breaking vows made after the Gulf War to give up chemical, nuclear and biological “weapons of mass destruction”.
But the US official said the latest discovery did not amount to that: “A smoking gun would be if you found a big stockpile with chemicals.”
UN spokesman Hiro Ueki said inspectors had come across the warheads during an inspection of bunkers built in the late 1990s at the Ukhaider Ammunition Storage Area.
“The team discovered 11 empty 122mm chemical warheads and one warhead that requires further evaluation,” he said in a statement. – Reuters
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