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Iraq says will fight any attack

Hussein: Speech aimed at deterring potential strikes against Iraq  

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- President Saddam Hussein has warned his army will defend Iraq and its people until "victory or martyrdom" against attack.

He sent a warning to potential "aggressors" that their acts against Iraq would be met with utmost failure.

He was speaking in a televised address marking the 81st anniversary of the creation of the Iraqi army.

"As your debased enemies failed in the past, so will any aggressor, if he lets himself be seduced into committing an evil act against your trust," he said.

"He will be shamed by Allah and will be thwarted in his base aims."

Hussein also said the Iraqi army was prepared to defend the country and the Iraqi people to death if need be.

"Another year is opening its pages for those whom we are talking about, those who are supported by the vast credit of values, sacrifices and preparedness to achieve everything that promoted the nation and the people, and protects land and honour," he said.

"This is the vow of these men and it is the vow of all of us."

The president said the army would be ready to combat "whatever is wrong" until one of two outcomes is reached -- "victory or martyrdom."

He also called the army "an everlasting record of bravery, chivalry, zeal and striving based upon its great faith."

Though the short speech made no direct mention of current events -- except for a reference to the Palestinian intifada -- it seemed to address the reports in Washington about the possibility of a U.S. campaign against Iraq.

The speech was preceded in the morning by a wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb of the unknown soldier in central Baghdad, attended by nearly the entire political and military establishment. The president did not attend the ceremony.

Hussein ended his speech by noting Iraq's "Palestinian brethren" and renewed Iraq's readiness to fight alongside the Palestinians.

He said the reason Iraq had not been doing so was not weakness, but "political and geographical obstacles."

He expressed faith that the situation could only change by the will of God.

In the past two decades the Iraqi army has seen action first against Iran and then in the Gulf War.

It is not known exactly how many soldiers the Iraqi army now has but the number is believed to have fallen in the past few years.

Since sanctions were imposed on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the army has not been able to update its equipment or replace the material it lost in that war.

In recent years, however, the Iraqi army has been working to improve its air-missile defence system and extend the range of the missiles to face U.S. and British war planes that patrol the southern no-fly zone.

The Iraqi army was first created on January 6, 1921.


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