Published on Saturday, December 28, 2002 by Reuters
Iraq Says US Force Would Get Unforgettable Lesson
by Nadim Ladki
BAGHDAD - The United States planned for a possible war on Iraq and a post-Saddam order, but Baghdad warned on Saturday it would fight any invaders through the streets and teach them lessons they would never forget.
U.N. inspectors, combing Iraq for signs of illegal weapons it denies having, checked at least five more sites around Baghdad linked to the Military Industrialization Commission, in charge of developing weapons and munitions.
A U.S. official said two aircraft carriers had been put on alert for possible use against Iraq and the Washington Post said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has signed an order sending "significant" ground forces and combat aircraft to the Gulf.
Washington planners looked ahead, drawing up plans to secure key cities and use Iraqi oil revenues for reconstruction after a possible U.S.-led invasion toppled President Saddam Hussein.
Iraq warned the superpower it was deluding itself.
"He who ever attacks our country will lose," Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh told a solidarity conference in Baghdad where he announced extra food rations -- wheat, rice, cooking oil and powder milk -- to help households build up reserves.
"We will fight from village to village, from city to city and from street to street in every city. The enemy will be taught an unforgettable lesson if it tries to attack."
Clad in military fatigues, he praised Saddam as a warrior who would take Iraq to a bright future, and told his audience:
"Iraq's oil, nationalized by the president...from the hands of the British and Americans in 1972...will remain in the hands of this people and this leadership."
Baghdad says the United States and Britain want to go to war to wrest control of the world's second largest oil reserves.
It says they plan to invade regardless of what U.N. inspectors, one month into a search for banned weapons of mass destruction, conclude in a report to the Security Council due by January 27.
Speculation has mounted war could start soon afterward.
U.S. President George Bush has already said Iraq is in "material breach" of a U.N. Security Council resolution last month by swearing it has got rid of any atomic, biological or chemical weapons that it still had after the 1991 Gulf war.
The resolution demanded Iraq readmit the inspectors after a four-year gap and gave Iraq a last chance to come clean on its weapons programs or face serious consequences.
Inspectors interviewed Kathim Jamil on Friday, a key Iraqi scientist with expertise in restoring aluminum tubes used in missiles. He denied any links to a nuclear program.
British aid minister Clare Short, a dove, urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to prevail on Bush not to fight without U.N. backing.
"We have got to try to keep the whole world together and the U.S. together behind the authority of the U.N. and that is where I think the UK should use its influence," she told BBC radio.
She also echoed a warning by the U.N. refugee chief over the suffering a war could bring to ordinary Iraqis.
As many as 9.5 million of Iraq's 22 million people could quickly need outside food once a war began, U.N. sources say.
U.S. officials said if Saddam was ousted they would keep the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq, at least temporarily, to ensure post-invasion oil dollars go on basic needs.
Bush is debating whether to ramp up Iraqi oil production, but an official said: "We aren't going to do it to benefit the U.S."
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Navy has been directed to have the George Washington and one other aircraft carrier, with cruisers and destroyers, ready to head to the Gulf on 96 hours' notice.
The Pentagon has decided to notify up to 50,000 ground troops that they may be sent to the Gulf early in 2003. The United States currently has about 60,000 troops in the region.
America, still embroiled in Afghanistan as it builds up forces in the Gulf, also faced a shock confrontation with North Korea, which has said it will revive its nuclear program and announced on Friday it was expelling U.N. nuclear inspectors.
Rumsfeld warned North Korea earlier this week against seizing on Iraq to press a nuclear weapons program, and said Washington could fight and win two wars at once if needs be.
Copyright 2002 Reuters Ltd