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Saddam: Iraqis Have Duty to Defend Country - 2003-03-20

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein went on national television Thursday morning following the beginning of military action to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.

About three hours after U.S. tomahawk missiles and bombers struck targets in and near Baghdad, the Iraqi President appeared on television, promising Iraq would be victorious.

The Iraqi leader said U.S. and British forces would be badly defeated. In the name of his leadership he promised Iraqi troops would resist and that the United States would not achieve its goals. Saddam Hussein said it is the duty of all Iraqis to defend their country.

It was not possible to determine whether the broadcast was live.

Moments after his speech, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Said Kazin al-Sahhaf held a news conference in downtown Baghdad. He lashed out at U.S. officials, based on reports that Thursday's strikes targeted a convoy identified by intelligence reports.

"I am sure they are stupid and will never succeed," he said. "But at the same time this is a good testimony, this is a good proof that they are criminals and they are killers and they are believing in assassinations. So, I think they should be condemned."

Mr. al-Sahhaf said all of Iraq is now one front against what he called "those aggressors."

Air raid sirens wailed throughout Baghdad around 5:30 a.m. local time followed by the deafening sound of anti-aircraft fire.

Shortly after the attack American forces took over the frequency of Iraqi radio and broadcast a statement in Arabic announcing the war had begun.