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Saddam Praises Anti-War Protests By: Maamoun Youssef
TimesUnion.com | Tuesday, February 18, 2003

CAIRO, Egypt -- Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said in a rare interview that he believed the American and British determination to make war on Iraq could collapse under the weight of anti-war sentiment in the two countries.

"Time is in our favor, and we have to buy more time hoping that the U.S.-British alliance might disintegrate because of ... the pressure of public opinion on American and British streets," Saddam told the Egyptian weekly Al-Osboa in the interview published Sunday.

"The demonstrations in the Arab and Western world include hundreds of thousands of peace-loving people who are protesting the war and aggression on Iraq," he said, apparently referring to protests in the United States and around the world last month.

Pointing to Arab public opinion as a force in Iraq's favor, Saddam also appealed to Arab leaders to defend Iraq. Arguing that Washington's goal was to control Mideast oil, he said that after attacking Iraq, U.S. forces could strike at other Arab countries and Iran.

Most of Saddam's statements were standard Iraqi rhetoric -- he blamed "Zionist schemes" for Iraq's troubles and said invading Iraq would not be "a picnic" for American and British forces.

But his references to anti-war demonstrations in the West were the first signal he believed protests could undermine President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the chief advocates of attacking Iraq.

Al-Osboa published two pictures of its reporter Sayed Nassar with Saddam -- one of the interview and the other of the two shaking hands.

The newspaper said the interview took just over two hours and was conducted at one of Saddam's presidential palaces on the outskirts of Baghdad, with Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz present.

While the United States has said it wants to oust Saddam to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the Iraqi president maintained in the interview that America's real design is to take control of Middle East oil to serve the interests of its ally, Israel.

"The Arab oil will be under the U.S. control and the region, especially where oil flows, will be under full American hegemony. All this serves Israel's interest with the aim of turning it to a vast empire in the region," Saddam said.

In other developments Sunday:

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said in an interview that Saudi Arabia will not allow bases on its soil to be used for an attack on Iraq even if the United Nations authorizes military action. Saudi Arabia earlier ruled out the use of its territory for unilateral U.S. action against Iraq, but had indicated it would cooperate in some way if the U.N. Security Council approved.

In the CNN interview, however, Saud said more clearly that Saudi cooperation would not include permitting use of its territory.

"We will cooperate with the Security Council, but as to entering the conflict or using the facilities as part of the conflict, that is something else," Saud said.

Iraq's foreign minister said Baghdad may not accept a draft U.S. resolution on United Nations weapons inspections even with Security Council approval.

"How can you expect Iraq to accept such an evil American resolution," Foreign Minister Naji Sabri told reporters. "This resolution is rejected by the international community, and it will never be accepted by anybody."

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