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Saddam Hussein to Address Iraqi People Amid Speculation About US Military Action - 2002-08-07

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has announced plans to deliver what is described as a comprehensive speech to the nation on Thursday morning. News of the speech comes amid speculation about possible U.S. military action to oust the Iraqi leader. Meanwhile, Iraq's parliament has renewed its invitation to the U.S. Congress to send a fact-finding team to Baghdad to investigate whether Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq's parliament voted Wednesday to once again offer a U.S. congressional delegation access to Iraq's weapons systems. But it also issued a statement saying Iraqis will stand as one united army, in the event of a U.S. military strike against Iraq.

The United States accuses Iraq of supporting terrorism and trying to rebuild its capacity to make weapons of mass destruction. President Bush has said he is committed to what he calls a regime change in Baghdad. But he also has indicated there are no plans on his desk for a military strike against Iraq.

The Iraqi parliament in a statement Wednesday said "the Iraqi people are not frightened by the United States' evil threats, which are doomed to failure". It also said "the enemy will bear the consequences of his aggression".

On Monday, Iraq offered to allow a team of U.S. congressmen and their experts to examine sites in Iraq for weapons of mass destruction. Iraq says it has eliminated such weapons and the means to produce them. However, Iraq has not allowed U.N. weapons inspectors into the country since 1998.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed the Iraqi offer as an effort to avoid military strikes.

Several countries including Russia and the European Union are opposed to military action. A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Wednesday the European Union supports the efforts of the United Nations, which has been mandated by the Security Council to pursue diplomatic efforts.

No Arab country in the Middle East, including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, has publicly supported military action against Iraq. Egypt's state-owned daily newspaper Al-Akhbar said Wednesday that it rejects the American method of changing a regime by military force. The newspaper said, the best way to liquidate Saddam Hussein's regime is to let the Iraqi people take charge of this mission.