Saddam attacks Arab 'sell-out'

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President Saddam Hussein delivered his harshest broadside for years against his Gulf neighbours yesterday, accusing them of selling out to the United States and the Zionist establishment.

President Saddam Hussein delivered his harshest broadside for years against his Gulf neighbours yesterday, accusing them of selling out to the United States and the Zionist establishment.

"May evil befall them, for evil is what they do," the Iraqi leader said in a televised speech marking the 12th anniversary of the end of the 1980-88 war against Iran, which in the event did not mention Iran once. Instead, he turned his fire on Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, blaming them for the disgrace whereby Arab countries allowed British and American planes to use them as a base from which to bomb "the citadel of the Arabs" and maintain the no-fly zone in southern Iraq.

The rare public appearance, in which President Saddam wore a dark suit and was flanked by a single black, white and red Iraqi flag, seemed designed both to dispel rumours that he was ill with cancer, and to exploit cracks which, 10 years after the end of the Gulf war, are starting to show in the wall of sanctions around the country.

Despite objections from the US, the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, will this week become the first elected head of state to visit Iraq since the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The trip is officially on oil business, part of a tour to persuade Opec members to hold a summit meeting in Venezuela later this year.

Brushing off complaints from Washington that the trip should have been cleared with the United Nations sanctions committee, Venezuela is adamant that Mr Chavez would go ahead. "He's going to arrive in Iraq, whether on skates or a camel," the Foreign Minister, Jose Vicente Rangel, said. In fact, given the air flight ban, he is likely to cross the border by car, coming from Iran.

President Saddam used his speech to deliver 58 "great lessons" of war, which conveyed "all the meanings of virtue". Among these were "Do not provoke a snake before you summon up the ability to cut off its head," and "When you find a mistake in your decision, do not hesitate to rectify it" - exhortations he ignored in the 1991 war with the US-led coalition that drove him from Kuwait.

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