Hussein tells army to prepare for war Victory 'is certain,' Iraqi leader says

January 07, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

AMMAN, Jordan -- Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, making no reference to a political settlement, exhorted his army yesterday to prepare for a long conflict in defense of occupied Kuwait.

Dressed in military fatigues and a beret, Mr. Hussein told a nationwide radio and television Army Day audience, "Victory in this battle is certain, God willing.

"The Iraqi armed forces have unshakeable faith in their mission, in their struggle which will not stop regardless of the sacrifices."

Army Day, a national holiday in Iraq's martial society, fell four days before scheduled talks in Geneva between Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III, but the Iraqi leader spoke only of war.

"The results of this battle will be great, and all the world and future generations will talk about . . . its positive results," he proclaimed. "It is the role of the faithful to fight against tyranny, against injustice, against corruption and against the foolish and tyrannical U.S. administration and its puppet, the Zionist entity, and against those bad people who have formed with them an alliance of tyranny and injustice.

"For these reasons," said the leader of the 17 million Iraqis and their million-man army, "the battle in which you are locked today is the mother of all battles."

It is, he added, "not expected to be a short one . . . and will entail great sacrifices," a military euphemism for casualties.

High-blown martial rhetoric is traditional on Iraq's Army Day even in years of peace -- although there have been few under Mr. Hussein's rule -- and so is a military parade of Iraqi troops, armor and rockets. But yesterday, the parade in downtown Baghdad was canceled without ex


The demand for sacrifice and appeals to pan-Arab sentiment -- "It's a battle for the sake of Palestine," Mr. Hussein said -- gave no hint that his embattled regime intends to comply with the Jan. 15 United Nations deadline for withdrawal from Kuwait.

On Saturday, the president's information minister, Latif Jassim, told reporters in Baghdad, "Dates set by [President] Bush only exist in his mind and imagination, and we don't recognize them. We repeat the saying that Kuwait is our land and returned to us."

Underlining Iraq's dogged stand, the Foreign Ministry announced Saturday that Baghdad had refused an invitation from the European Community to meet in Luxembourg with Mr. Aziz the day after the Baker talks, declaring: "We feel dissatisfaction with the policy pursued by some European countries, a policy which is a satellite of the U.S. aggressive and arrogant policy."

The EC leaders had signaled that they, like the Americans, would demand an unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.

When the Iraqi Foreign Ministry suggested that European leaders come to Baghdad instead, Belgian Foreign Minister Mark Eyskens told reporters, "We will not let ourselves be humiliated to that extent."

Meanwhile, a study released by the Gulf Cooperation Council, the alliance of Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf sheikdoms, calculated that the U.N. trade embargo imposed on Iraq four days after the invasion has cost Baghdad $2.5 billion a month in lost revenues.

The report said that Mr. Hussein's regime has been forced to suspend major industrial, water and energy-related projects for lack of income. More than 90 percent of Iraqi revenues are derived from the sale of oil, which has been blocked by the embargo. With its exports stymied, Iraqi oil production has dropped from nearly 3 million barrels a day before the invasion to about 600,000 barrels a day.

In Saudi Arabia, the newspaper Asharq al Awsat said without identifying its sources that Iraqi authorities had executed a military officer for divulging what it said was an escape plan for Mr. Hussein if the war goes against him. The Saudi report asserted that the Iraqi leader would attempt to flee to Yemen or Libya. There was no confirmation of the execution or the reported escape plan.

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