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Iraq 'Does Not Choose Its Path on Orders from a Foreigner', says Saddam - 2003-03-18

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and one of his sons are defying President Bush's ultimatum for them to leave Iraq by early Thursday or face attack, saying they will stay and fight.

Just hours after President Bush issued the ultimatum, the Iraqi leader appeared on state television wearing a uniform, while chairing a joint meeting of his Revolutionary Command Council and the Baath party leadership.

A statement released after the meeting said Iraq does not choose its path on the orders of a foreigner and does not choose its leadership according to decrees from Washington, London or Tel Aviv.

The statement said Iraq is fully ready to confront invading forces and repel them.

The statement indicated that the Iraqi leader told his cabinet that the coming battle will be the last for Iraq, for a while. It also said it would be the last aggressive war launched by the United States against the world, for a while.

Earlier, Saddam Hussein's eldest son Uday also rejected the ultimatum, and said President Bush should be the one to leave office.

If the rejection stands, President Bush has pledged he will launch an attack on Iraq at a time of his choosing.

Meanwhile, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa decided not to travel to Baghdad in a final effort to avoid war. According to Arab League spokesman Hisham Yousef, Mr. Moussa was to travel to the Iraqi capital for a meeting with Saddam Hussein, but the meeting was called off because of what Mr. Yousef described as dramatically unfolding events in the region.

The Arab League secretary general called for immediate international diplomacy to prevent war against Iraq. In a statement released by Mr. Moussa's office, he urged the Security Council to bear their responsibilities and work to avoid the military option. He said Security Council resolution 1441 did not give a license for any military action or contain any deadlines.