Saddam Hussein promised yesterday to defeat the United States if it attacks Iraq and to continue supplying the Palestinians "with every meansby which they can defendthemselves.
"We will fight [the Americans] with missiles, warplanes, marsh reeds and even stones and they will be defeated," the Iraqi President was quoted by state-controlled media as saying during a meeting with military commanders.
Earlier yesterday Saddam's son Qusay said Iraqis were ready to respond to any military attack. Qusay, a senior lieutenant of the Iraqi leader, said in an open letter to his father, published in the Baghdad press: "Your brave people are well prepared to retaliate against failing American threats."
The message, published hours after George Bush and Tony Blair said President Saddam should be removed from power, was defiant in tone. Qusay said: "Swords of your sons in the republic army are ... unsheathed against foreign aggression."
The Iraqi leader has been preparing for war against the US by taking measures to prevent an internal uprising and ensure that a prolonged air offensive will not be as effective as it was during the 1991 Gulf War. Emergency committees of loyal supporters have been set up to try to stop rebels gaining control. Orders have been given for fuel and food to be stored.
Qusay, 35, was appointed two years ago as his father's heir and has largely displaced Uday, his elder brother notorious for violence and high living. Qusay supervises the security forces and has some authority over elite troop divisions.
Iraq has moderated its rhetoric on allowing UN weapons inspectors to enter the country. Previously it was adamant that the inspectors, who withdrew before American and British air strikes in December 1998, would never be allowed back. More recently Iraqi leaders have appeared to hint that the inspectors might be readmitted.
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