Iraqi parliament rejects Bush's ultimatum
The Jerusalem Post

March 19, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's parliament opened an extraordinary session Wednesday to discuss a US ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to step down, and legislators vowed to sacrifice their lives for their leader.

"We are dedicated to martyrdom in defense of Iraq under your leadership," the assembly said in a message to Saddam. "The people don't accept a leader except you."

Speaker Saadoon Hammadi opened the extraordinary session by denouncing President George W. Bush's early Thursday deadline for Saddam and his sons to step down or face war.

The Iraqi leadership rejected the demand on Tuesday in a joint meeting of the top executive Revolution Command Council and the leadership of the ruling Baath Party - chaired by Saddam.

"The people of Iraq, with a free and honest will, have spoken decisively and clearly in choosing their mujahid leader Saddam Hussein president of the country," speaker Hammadi told the assembly.

In October, Iraq said Saddam won a referendum to stay in office by 100 percent. He has been president of Iraq since 1979.

Iraq's parliament is a rubber-stamp legislature. The Revolution Command Council and the ruling Arab Baath Socialist Party have the final say in the country.

Asked Wednesday whether Saddam would step aside, Hammadi told reporters after the session: "He will be in front of everyone. He will fight and guide our country to victory. This is absolutely unthinkable."

In his speech to the assembly, Hammadi said:

"We reject and condemn this insolence, aggression and violations of laws. ... Iraq is not the kind of country or people that can be dictated on what to do as said by the president of the American administration," Hammadi added.

Bush, in an address to the American people on Monday, gave Saddam and his sons until early Thursday local time to leave the country or face war. About 300,000 US and British troops are massed in the region for possible invasion.

Iraq's people, Hammadi said, "stand united ... against treacherous forces and are ready for all sacrifices in their legitimate defense of their honor, principles and sanctities."

We are "standing beside him (Saddam) in his holy struggle in defense of the independence of the country," he added.

Before Hammadi read his statement opening the session, legislators shouted "with our blood, our souls we redeem you Saddam!" and waved their firsts in the air.