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Saddam Hussein Optimistic About Defending Iraq - 2003-03-04

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is vowing to defeat any attack on his country. His comments come as Iraq continues to destroy more missiles in an effort to show it is cooperating with U.N. weapons inspectors. Iran is calling on Iraq to allow U.N. supervised elections as a way to avoid war and achieve a peaceful transition of power.

In a letter read by state television to mark the Islamic New Year, Saddam Hussein promised Iraq will be victorious in any war. Armed with faith "the believers will triumph over tyranny and its accomplices," said the Iraqi leader.

As President Hussein issued the rallying call, Iraq Tuesday continued destroying more of its al-Samoud 2 missiles.

Iraq has about 100 of the surface-to-surface missiles. Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix ordered them destroyed, saying their range exceeds the U.N.-imposed limit of 150 kilometers.

The Iraqi government has also told the United Nations it will deliver a report, in about a week, on VX nerve agent and anthrax stocks it says it destroyed in 1991.

Mr. Blix is due to report to the Security Council this Friday on Iraqi compliance with U.N. demands. American officials have reacted skeptically to the latest steps by Iraq to comply with U.N. demands, dismissing them as part of Iraq's "game of deception."

In a new development, Iran's foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, has called on Iraq to allow a transition of power to take place under a U.N.- supervised referendum. He also called for national reconciliation between Iraqi opposition groups and President Saddam Hussein in order to open the way for a U.N. supervised referendum.

Mr. Kharrazi said the referendum would allow Iraqis to elect a broad-based government in which he said, "all minorities as well as ethnic and religious groups have a share." The foreign minister said a U.N. supervised election was the only way for a peaceful change of government in Iraq.