- (AFP) - Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said he would
rather be overthrown by the United States than see his country be the target
of destructive air strikes, the official INA news agency reported.
"We give our support ... to the option of overthrowing the regime
-- a civilized slogan -- which is better than attacking, striking the population,
harming it and destroying its resources," he said during a meeting
with military officials marking the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
Responding to media reports that the US administration was plotting to
overthrow his regime, Saddam said "these threats are not new and do
not deserve a response."
"When they (the United States) talk of an aggression, they carry one
out against us every day," he said, in a reference to the overflight
by US and British planes of the two no-fly zones set up in northern and
southern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf war.
"But when they discuss their new civilized slogan, they may find support
for it ... They might even find support from within the (Iraqi) leadership,
including from Saddam Hussein himself," he added sarcastically.
After his remarks, Saddam nevertheless remained defiant, ending his speech
by asserting that "those who believe that Iraq, its army and its leadership,
can be afraid, do not see the truth."
US President George W. Bush has branded Iraq part of an "axis of evil"
and threatened to take unspecified action against Baghdad unless it lets
UN arms inspectors back into the country to check it no longer has weapons
of mass destruction.
The inspectors pulled out of Iraq on the eve of a December 1998 US-British
bombing blitz and have not been allowed to return since.
Iraq maintains it no longer has mass destruction weapons or the capability
of developing them.
The Washington Times said Friday, quoting White House officials, that Bush
wants Saddam out of office before his own term is up in January 2005.