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Saddam says Iraq ready to foil any fresh U.S. attack

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BAGHDAD — On the 11th anniversary of the Gulf War, President Saddam Hussein said Thursday his country was prepared for and would foil any fresh U.S. military attack against Iraq as part of a war against terrorism.

In a televised speech to the nation, Saddam said experience Iraq had gained from the Gulf War — in which a U.S.-led coalition drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait and bombed Iraq — would enable it to repulse any new military campaign.

"After the course of the aggression 11 years ago, backed up by a continuous aggression till this day, our people will not be taken by surprise," Saddam said.

Iraq had survived the Gulf War and would be able to survive other military action, he said.

He said Iraqis "now have more confidence in themselves and more conviction in their march than they had in the year 1991.

"Will the performance of one who has sat an examination and passed it be higher and better, or lower and lesser?" Saddam asked.

But he prayed that God would spare Iraq military confrontation with America.

"We pray to Allah, glorified be His Name, to keep our people and our nation away from the evil of the evildoers and their wicked intentions."

Thousands of Iraqis, including some who have volunteered to fight with Palestinians in their uprising against Israeli occupation, shouted curses against the United States during a march in Baghdad.

"Down, down with America . . . Down, down with Bush," chanted the demonstrators, some of whom were carrying guns. They burned an effigy of President Bush and the American and Israeli flags.

Iraq says nearly seven million Iraqis have volunteered to fight with Palestinians in their confrontation with Israeli troops.

Arms inspectors

With some U.S. officials believing Washington failed to "finish the job" against Saddam in 1991, there has been speculation that the United States could again target Iraq following the September 11 attacks on U.S. cities.

President Bush promised on Wednesday to consult with the Turkish government in his drive to force Saddam to let U.N. weapons inspectors back into his country.

"I expect Saddam Hussein to let inspectors back into the country," Bush said in Washington during a picture-taking session with visiting Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit.

"We want to know whether he's developing weapons of mass destruction. He claims he's not: Let the world in to see. And if he doesn't, we'll have to deal with that at the appropriate time," Bush said.

What if Saddam refuses? "He'll find out," Bush said.

The U.N. inspectors, who went to Iraq after the Gulf War to monitor the destruction of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, left in December 1998 and have not been allowed to return.

Thursday editions of Baghdad newspapers carried a letter from Saddam's younger son Qusay in which he pledged that Iraq's elite Republican Guards, whom he supervises, would "repulse any aggression against our dear country."

"We will resist their aggression and destroy all their criminal scheming against us," the ruling Baath party newspaper said in a front-page editorial.