Sun, May 04, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Video of Saddam's last-known speech shows confused man

AP , BAGHDAD, IRAQ

In what is purported to be his last-known wartime speech -- a video never before televised -- Saddam Hussein appears exhausted, at times confused and seemingly resigned to defeat, but he tells Iraqis that God, somehow, will help them expel the American-British occupiers.

"The faithful will be victorious over the sinners, regardless of the duration of the struggle and the forms it might take," Saddam says. With patience, the "ordeal" can be overcome, he says, and the invaders driven from Iraq.

The videotape, bearing a presidential stamp, was obtained Thursday by Associated Press Television News from a former employee of the Iraqi satellite television channel which, under the regime, was responsible for filming and distributing official presidential video.

The employee said it was made on April 9, the day US troops streamed into central Baghdad and pulled down a towering Saddam statue.

There was no way to authenticate that the tape was made on that day. Nor could it be immediately proven that the speaker on the tape was Saddam -- though Iraqis who watched and listened to the leader for decades believed it was him.

The videotape was still being reviewed by US agencies, said an intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity. He said it was not known when the tape was made and that its authenticity could not be confirmed.

An audiotape of the address was obtained and aired April 18 by Abu Dhabi television, which said it also was told the speech was delivered April 9.

At the same time, Abu Dhabi television also broadcast a videotape, also said to have been made on April 9, showing Saddam in the midst of an enthusiastic crowd in the Baghdad district of Azamiyah, a few miles north of the area occupied by US troops that day.

At the time, two senior Bush administration officials cast doubt on the authenticity of the tapes.

In the videotaped speech, Saddam -- nearing his 66th birthday, and wearing his familiar open-necked olive drab uniform and black beret -- appears deeply fatigued, like someone who had slept little. The bags under his eyes droop more heavily than before. His speech is abnormally slow, and he seldom raises his eyes from the text to look into the camera.

Twice he repeats a sentence of the speech -- not for emphasis, but out of apparent confusion. He seems on edge, not surprisingly for someone whose government has been under devastating air and ground attack for three weeks.

As he prepares to begin the speech, in a generic room with a backdrop of pink-and-orange drapes, he says to aides, "The sooner we finish it, the better."

Then, at the end, Saddam adds an uncharacteristically human note of uncertainty. "How was my reading as a whole?" he asks people off camera, and then adds, `"It's OK.'"

Thickly laced with religious references, Saddam's speech did not strike the most defiant tones of his earlier televised addresses in the first days of the war, which began March 20, speeches in which he told his people their military would humble the US superpower.

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