Thursday, Feb 27, 2003
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By Sridhar Krishnaswami
"We will die here. We will die in this country and we will maintain our honour the honour that is required... in front of our people'', Mr. Hussein remarked in an interview with Dan Rather of CBS News. Mr. Hussein has gone on to say that anyone offering asylum is a person without morals. "Whoever decides to forsake his nation from whoever requests is not true to his principles. I believe that whoever... offers Saddam asylum in his own country is in fact a person without morals'', the Iraqi President has been quoted as saying.
The United States President, George W. Bush, has openly welcomed the idea of Mr. Hussein leaving the country; and many Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, are supposedly warm to this idea if that would spare the region of a military conflict.
Senior administration officials such as the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, have said that only one of two things could prevent a war in the Persian Gulf: Mr. Hussein leaving the country or fully abiding by the terms of United Nations resolutions.
CBS News, which has been giving out excerpts of Mr. Rather's interview over the last two days, is planning to air the meeting in full tonight. The Iraqi leader has also apparently made the point that he has no intention of setting fire to oil fields or destroying dams if American forces start invading the country. "Iraq does not burn its wealth and it does not destroy its dams'', Mr. Hussein is said to have remarked. He has also rejected Iraq-Al Qaeda links, arguing that Osama bin Laden had himself said that there was no such linkage.
Meanwhile, the White House is aggressively going about making the point that in the event of any military showdown with Iraq, its top leadership, including military Generals, would be hauled before a war crimes tribunal.
On Tuesday, Mr. Bush stressed that if Mr. Hussein or his Generals "take innocent lives, if they destroy infrastructure, they will be held accountable as war criminals''. And his spokesman, Ari Fleischer, went a step further and said Mr. Hussein and his inner circle would be legitimate targets. "If we go to war in Iraq and hostilities result, command and control and top Generals, people who are in-charge of fighting the war to kill the U.S. troops, cannot assume they will be safe'', Mr. Fleischer said, adding that in war, command and control are "legitimate targets'' by international law. Asked if this included Mr. Hussein, Mr. Fleischer said, "of course''.
Even as hectic war preparations are under way, a top U.S. General told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the military occupying force in Iraq could total several hundred thousand soldiers.
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