Iraq's leadership on Tuesday officially rejected the U.S. ultimatum that Saddam Hussein and his sons leave Iraq or face war.
Iraq's al-Shabab television, owned by Saddam's son Uday, said the decision to defy President Bush's ultimatum was made in a joint meeting of the Revolution Command Council — Iraq's highest executive body — and the leadership of the ruling Baath party.
Iraqi television showed Saddam in a military uniform for the first time in several years, chairing a joint meeting of the ruling Revolutionary Command Council and the Baath Party leadership.
A statement read by the announcer said the meeting condemned the ultimatum Bush issued in Washington on Monday night. "Iraq doesn't choose its path through foreigners and doesn't choose its leaders by decree from Washington, London or Tel Aviv, but through the will of the great Iraqi people," it said.
"The pathetic Bush was hoping ... to achieve his evil targets without a fight through that declaration (the ultimatum) which reflects a state of isolation and defeat from which he and his pathetic allies are suffering from," the statement from the meeting said.
Iraqi television said Saddam also chaired a cabinet meeting in which he told ministers: "This battle will be the last war for Iraq for a while against any arrogant [power] and the last aggressive war launched by America against the world for a while.
"God willing, victory will be yours and your enemy will be repelled because it is on the side of falsehood. Allahu Akbar [God is greatest]."
Saddam warned that American forces would find an Iraqi fighter ready to die for his country "behind every rock, tree and wall."
But he made a late bid Monday to avert war, acknowledging that Iraq had once possessed weapons of mass destruction to defend itself from Iran and Israel, but insisting that it no longer has them. "We are not weapons collectors," the official Iraqi News Agency quoted him as telling Tunisian Foreign Minister Habib Ben Yahia, who was visiting Baghdad in a quest to avert war.
"When Saddam Hussein says he has no weapons of mass destruction, he means what he says," Saddam said. (Albawaba.com)
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