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Iraq Dismisses Bush Address, Promises to Fight if Provoked

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran

Iraqi state television said Thursday night that President Bush’s speech to the United Nations exposed “evil whims to ignite a war” and that Iraq will mount a “fierce and merciless fight against those who would dare to infringe its security.”

But senior government officials here opted Thursday night to make no response to the address, amid signals that President Saddam Hussein’s government may be trying again to craft a compromise that would allow it to avert war by allowing U.N. weapons inspectors to return.

There was no immediate reaction to Bush’s speech among most ordinary Iraqis because it was not broadcast on Iraqi television or radio. The 9 p.m. television news, which aired about two hours after Bush finished speaking, made no mention of his address. Later in the evening, however, the station delivered a brief commentary.

“Regardless of the prattles delivered by Bush during his ignorant speech to the General Assembly, we say that Bush’s evil whims to ignite a war under the pretext of combating terrorism reflects his irresponsible attitude to humanity,” the statement said. It warned that any U.S. attack on Iraq would “lead the Mideast region into a state of turmoil and the United States will pay a high price because Iraq is not an easy prey.”

Many U.S. allies have cautioned Washington against attacking Iraq without U.N. authority and say that a new push should be made to get weapons inspectors back into the country. In the speech Thursday, Bush called on the world body to force Iraq to disarm and said that failing that, “action will be unavoidable.”

Satellite dishes that receive signals from CNN, the BBC and Arabic-language station al-Jazeera are illegal here. Many educated Iraqis often follow world events by furtively listening to shortwave radios.