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Purported Saddam tape urges resistance
( 2003-09-18 11:45) (Agencies)

In an audiotape broadcast Wednesday, a speaker purporting to be Saddam Hussein  urged Iraqis to escalate attacks on Americans and called on U.S. and other coalition forces to leave the country "as soon as possible and without any conditions."

The speaker, who sounded like the ousted Iraqi leader, also urged America's international partners not to "fall prey in the traps of American foreign policy" and reject any plan for Iraq that legitimizes military occupation.

He called on coalition leaders "to withdraw your armies as soon as possible and without any conditions, because there is no reason for further losses that will be disastrous for America if your officials ... continue their aggression."

The speaker accused President Bush of lying to "your people and everyone" to justify the war against Iraq, adding that "the losses in your army ... makes your declaration of defeat and your retreat inevitable, if not today, tomorrow."

Bush launched the war in March after accusing Saddam of ignoring U.N. orders to account for his weapons of mass destruction, which the Iraqis insisted they no longer had. U.S. investigators have been unable to find such weapons.

The 14-minute tape attributed to Saddam was broadcast by the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya satellite television station. News editor Aymen Gaballah said the tape was received Wednesday in Baghdad after someone called the station and told them where to find it. The station said it aired the tape in its entirety. It was at least the eighth such message attributed to Saddam since his ouster.

The speaker said the tape was recorded in mid-September, which could not be confirmed. There also was no way to immediately verify if the voice was indeed Saddam; intelligence officials said the CIA was reviewing the tape. The last tape attributed to Saddam was broadcast Sept. 1.

Addressing Iraqis, the speaker said he was bringing "pleasant news" that "losses have begun to eat away at the enemy like wildfire." He urged Iraqis to "increase your grip and armed struggle" and called on them to show their anger by attacks, demonstrations, graffiti and financial contributions to the resistance."

He also warned America's partners on the U.N. Security Council to avoid signing off on any plans for Iraq that leave the country under military occupation. Leaders of Germany, France and Britain meet in Berlin this weekend to try to coordinate their positions on Iraq, including their response to U.S. calls for more peacekeeping troops and money.

"We hope that none of the Security Council members fall prey in the traps of America's foreign policy," the speaker said. "And know that the Iraqi people and its leadership will reject any solution under the umbrella of the occupation. We will consider any settlement in light of the occupation is nothing but an evident bluff to justify what the occupation wants."

One Baghdad resident, Ahmed Hassan Mustafa, dismissed the remarks as "irrelevant."

"For 35 years we put up with Saddam's killings and his wars," he said. "Let's wait and see what the Americans do for us in the coming years before we criticize them."

However, another Baghdad resident, Yassin Taha Selman Al-Jebouri, said the Americans "entered Iraq as liberators, but up to now they have done nothing useful for us. ... We will wait for two or three years. If the Americans still achieve nothing for us, then Saddam will have been proved right."

Coalition troops face ongoing attacks by Iraqi resistance fighters, described by the Bush administration as remnants of the ousted regime. On Wednesday, three bombing attacks were reported against U.S. troops about 12 miles north of Baghdad. Witnesses reported injured soldiers but details were unclear. The military confirmed the first attack and said one soldier was wounded.

The commander of the U.S.-led coalition was quoted Wednesday as saying American soldiers now face revenge attacks from ordinary Iraqis angered by the U.S. occupation.

"We have seen that when we have an incident in the conduct of our operations, when we killed an innocent civilian, based on their ethic, their values, their culture, they would seek revenge," Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez was quoted as saying by The Times newspaper in London.

Ahmed Chalabi, current president of the U.S.-appointed Iraq Governing Council, blamed continuing violence on the Americans and the fact that Iraqis are not responsible for security.

"It is clear there are security problems in the country, and that is mainly because Iraqis are not taking a major part in handling security," Chalabi said.

U.S. officials have said Iraqi insurgents have been joined by limited numbers of foreigners, some with suspected links to al-Qaida. However, the U.S. military said Wednesday it had "no firm evidence" any prisoners it has taken in the continuing occupation of Iraq were American or British.

"There were small number of prisoners that initially claimed to be U.S. and U.K. citizens, however, there is no evidence that suggests we are holding American or British detainees at this time," military spokesman Lt. Col. George Krivo said. "The suspicion is that they made these claims in order to avoid detention in the first place. As they were questioned, there was no evidence to back up these claims."

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who is in charge of coalition detention centers in Iraq, said Tuesday that eight prisoners six claiming to be Americans and two claiming to be Britons were in custody and considered security detainees, meaning they were suspected of involvement in guerrilla attacks. The eight would have been the first Westerners reported held in the insurrection against the U.S.-led occupation.

 
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