Tuesday 25 March 2003

US Fury as Saddam Appears on TV

The US propaganda war took a direct hit yesterday when Saddam Hussein appeared on TV, apparently alive and well.

The Iraqi dictator talked about current battles and urged his followers to "kill your enemy precisely and accurately" - although some US officials said the video could have been recorded before the war.

Crucially, Saddam's appearance suggested the "decapitation" strike on the first night of the campaign - which the US believed had either killed or at least badly wounded the dictator - was a failure.

The Iraqi dictator - without the glasses he wore in Thursday's TV pictures - appeared calm, fit and healthy, in contrast to the dishevelled figure who had read hesitantly from notes five days ago.

His hair appeared darker and sleeker and there was no sign of the owlish spectacles of last week.

Furious US Defence chief Donald Rumsfeld, already enraged at Iraqi TV pictures of US PoWs, now wants to strangle Saddam's exploitation of the airwaves by targeting Iraqi radio and TV stations in bombing raids.

A Pentagon official said: "He's jumping up and down about this - expect TV screens to go blank in Iraq very soon indeed."

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