Nando Times
On Gulf war anniversary, SH urges enemies to ask God's forgiveness

By WAIEL FALEH


BAGHDAD, Iraq (January 17, 2000) - In a televised speech that marked the ninth anniversary of the Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein urged his enemies on Monday to ask for God's forgiveness for crimes against Iraq - a clear reference to U.N. economic sanctions.

"The evildoers will have to ... prostrate themselves before God, after first believing in Him," he said.

The United States and its allies began the assault on Iraq nine years ago Monday to force Iraq out of Kuwait, which Saddam's forces had occupied seven months earlier.

Iraq withdrew and signed a cease-fire but still claims victory in what it called the "mother of all battles." It is marking the anniversary this year with large-scale, government-sponsored festivities ranging from art shows, gunfire and music parties that are expected to continue for 45 days.

Schoolchildren will be given lectures on the meanings and lessons of the war. Exhibitions will give an extraordinary account of the devastation of the country's economy and infrastructure during the U.N. economic sanctions.

The embargo was imposed after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The government blames the embargo for the widespread poverty in Iraq.

"Those who delude themselves into believing that the prolonged march may break the willpower of the Iraqis have to stop relishing that delusion," Saddam said in his speech.

The government usually marks the date of the war, but it wasn't clear why it organized such elaborate celebrations this year. It could be Saddam feels more assured of his hold over power at this point and Iraqis are more confident than ever that sanctions will be suspended - if not lifted - soon.

The Kuwaiti daily Al-Anba on Monday quoted Kuwait's defense minister, Sheik Salem Al Sabah, as saying Iraq remains a threat to Kuwait because it is still acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

Also Monday, a team of U.N. oil experts held talks with their Iraqi counterparts on ways to boost Iraq's oil production capacity and to earn more money to meet humanitarian needs, U.N. and Iraqi officials said.

This is the third visit by the experts since the start of the U.N. approved oil-for-food program in 1996. The program allows Iraq to sell oil in an exception to the U.N. sanctions to buy food and other humanitarian goods.

Iraqi oil officials said they would like the experts to pay closer attention to the country's aging and dilapidated refineries currently churning out products below international specifications.




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