Iraqi President Calls for Jihad Against US-led 'Invaders'

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on Wednesday renewed his call for Jihad (holy war) against the US-led "invaders."

"Fight them (US-led coalition forces) so that Iraq, the bastion of religion and principles, will be secured and our (Islamic) nation will come out of this crisis glorious," said a statement of the Iraqi leader, which was read out by a TV anchor.

"Victory is at hand, God willing, although we have only utilized a third or less of our army while the criminals have used everything they brought in," the statement said.

"Their failure was manifested and victory is glowing, God willing," it added.

Saddam said in the statement that the Iraqi armed forces have not used full capabilities in the battle.

Wednesday's no-show speech has been the second one by Saddam within the past 24 hours, as the US-British troops speeded up advance toward the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad from three southern positions, Karbala, Diwaniyah and Kut.

In another message read out on Iraqi state television late on Tuesday by Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, Saddam told his people that jihad or holy war was a religious duty and he urged them to fight invading troops.

The fact that Saddam did not appear personally on Tuesday prompted financial markets to speculate that the Iraqi leader might have been killed. Asian stocks strengthened on the rumors in early trade on Wednesday and safe-haven gold fell.

Speculation has abounded about Saddam's fate since US bombs targeted him on the first night of the war on March 20. State television has shown Saddam addressing the nation twice since, but it has not been possible to say when he was taped.

He has also been shown several times with various top aides. On Monday, state television showed a brief clip of the 65-year-old leader at a table with his two sons, Uday and Qusay.

In the new message, Saddam was quoted urging Iraqi forces in the southern city of Nassiriya to resist US-led forces, saying their fighting spirit set an example for all Iraqis to follow.

"Fight them with the same passion and spirit, and let every one of you and the people of Nassiriya and Dhiqar remember his faith, character and sense of duty. Then the enemy will be defeated in other cities as they were outside your city," said the message the announcer said was dated April 1.

Dhiqar is the province where Nassiriya is situated. Nassiriya is 375 km (235 miles) southeast of Baghdad.

"Fight the enemy and let them get a taste of your roughness... You have become the symbol of leadership," the statement said, naming several of the military figures Saddam said were leading Iraqi forces in Nassiriya.

Some Nassiriya residents told reporters on Tuesday that a small number of Fedayeen militia and loyalists to Saddam's Baath Party continued to put up sporadic resistance to U.S. forces who have pummelled targets in the city for the past six days.



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