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Iraq has launched a campaign to tell the world that Saddam Hussein is here to stay and that the Clinton administration will have to do business with him.

Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz told the U.S. television network CNN Monday that any attempt to remove the Iraqi president would be illegal and futile.Iraq's official press, taking up the argument Tuesday, said Washington would be heading down a dark tunnel if it insisted on overthrowing Saddam.

In a signed commentary, the government newspaper al-Jumhouriyah reminded the Clinton administration how George Bush had failed in what it called his "crazy pursuits" to get rid of Saddam.

Defense Secretary Les Aspin appeared to endorse the hard line of the Bush administration when he said Sunday he thought U.N. sanctions against Iraq would last as long as Saddam stayed in power.

Al-Jumhouriyah reacted angrily. "Les Aspin's statement . . . is disgusting and ridiculous.

"Once again the Pentagon's master confounds Security Council resolutions with Washington's frustrated aims," it said.

It said Bush had his "skull smashed on the rock of Iraq's steadfastness" and asked, "Why does Aspin want to go down the same dark tunnel?"

Aziz described Aspin's remarks as "belligerent and arrogant." "This should not be the objective of the new administration. It is illegal, it is futile and it simply didn't work," Aziz said in the interview.

Al-Jumhouriyah said Iraqis should not expect too much from the Clinton administration.

"It seems that deception and lies are the standard of America's irreversible path. There is no difference between a Democratic or Republican ruler."

There are no signs that Saddam is losing his firm and direct grip on power despite his defeat in the Persian Gulf War and more than two years of stringent U.N. sanctions imposed to punish Iraq for invading Kuwait in 1990.