BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq's government on Tuesday described President Bush's speech as a "misleading" attempt to justify an attack, while Iraqis who listened to the address saw it as a sign of Washington's determination to go to war.
"The speech contained misleading information through which Bush is trying to justify an illogical and illegitimate attack on Iraq," said Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri.
Sabri, who spoke to reporters in Qatar on Tuesday, has been touring the Gulf in an attempt to rally support against a possible U.S. strike.
Iraqi media kept to their regular programming Tuesday, so ordinary Iraqis relied on radios to tune in to what many heard as Bush's determination to go to war.
"Again, Bush's speech contains nothing but threats that do not help in reaching a peaceful resolution for our ongoing tragedy," said Salman Mohammed, a history teacher in Baghdad.
In Baghdad Tuesday, secondary school teacher Dia'a al-Na'eimy, 55, joined dozens of others at a blood bank, saying her donation was a way of demonstrating support for Saddam Hussein in his confrontation with Bush.
"Our presence here today is a response to Bush's speech and it is a strong and decisive response. We will protect our leader with our blood," she said.
Ahmed Taha, an Iraqi university student said he wished Bush had used "new words like dialogue and peace rather than his old words like war and accusations."
In his speech, Bush said the U.S. bears no hostility against the Iraqi people and his aim is to remove dangers posed by Saddam.
Hill Khalif, a 53-year-old grocery shop owner in downtown Baghdad, was not reassured by Bush's overture to ordinary Iraqis, saying Bush could not pursue friendship by "working on destroying my country."
Prior to Bush's speech, a senior official told a rally in Baghdad that Iraq will teach the United States "an unforgettable lesson" if it attacks.
'If America dares to attack Iraq, our reaction will be tough and decisive," Sameer Abdul-Aziz al-Najim, a senior party official, said. "The Americans will be confronted by the one and united people who will teach them an unforgettable lesson."
Demonstrators waived banners reading, "Yes, yes to President Saddam Hussein" and "Death to the U.S." Some raised their rifles, shouting "Bush, listen carefully, we all love our president."