Saddam denounces foes as 'hyenas'

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Baghdad - On the fifth anniversary of the Gulf war which drove Iraq out of Kuwait, President Saddam Hussein has hit out at the "howls of hyenas" from Iraq's critics.

In an address to the nation yesterday, Saddam acclaimed the "Mother of All Battles" and said that Iraq, not the US-led multinational coalition, had won the six-week war which began on 17 January 1991.

"The crows, jackals and hyenas around it ... thought that Iraq, a nation of faith and jihad [holy struggle], was on its way to fall, so they increased their howl," he said. "The Iraqis defeated the enemy by preventing them from throttling the base of the capability of the faithful [Arab] nation and centre of its radiation [Iraq]," Saddam said in the 90-minute speech on Baghdad television.

But he admitted that his country suffered a great deal from the war and the prolonged sanctions - "a painful and vicious embargo" - imposed on Iraq as punishment for invading Kuwait in 1990.

Saddam said that thosedemanding a change in Iraqi government despite his overwhelming victory in a presidential referendum last October were following "the path of subservience to the [unnamed] foreigner". He said: "The foreigner gestured to them to embark on what you hear ... They are lowly obedient servants, utterly humiliated, and shall not stop until the foreigner is frustrated."

King Hussein of Jordan, who backed Saddam in the Gulf crisis, has called for a change of government in Baghdad after giving asylum to two senior Iraqi defectors and their wives - both daughters of Saddam - last August.

Saddam, however, said he was ready to turn a new page in his relations with the Arab states hostile to his leadership, saying he was ready to solve outstanding issues which he described as "minor".