BAGHDAD, Iraq – Saddam Hussein urged the Iraqi people Friday to defend the country against the United States, and vowed that an attack on Baghdad would be "suicide" for anyone who tried.
The Iraqi president revealed no plans to back down or step aside during his 40-minute televised address, delivered on the 12th anniversary of the beginning of the Persian Gulf War.
"The people of Baghdad have resolved to compel the Mongols of this age to commit suicide on its walls," Saddam said, apparently referring to the United States and Britain. "Everyone who tries to climb over its walls ... will fail in his attempt."
On Thursday, United Nations weapons inspectors found 12 empty rocket warheads that could be used to carry chemical agents. Iraq claims the warheads were old and were listed in earlier disclosures of the country's weapons.
A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said evidence suggests at least 11 of the warheads were never loaded with any chemical agent. Whether the 12th -- which was taken for tests by U.N. inspectors -- had ever contained any chemical agent was unknown.
The United States has threatened military action if Iraq fails to prove it has given up weapons of mass destruction. On Friday, Saddam vowed to beat back any invasion.
He said the Iraqi nation was fully mobilized against the threat of a new conflict and told President Bush to "keep your evil away from the mother of civilization."
"The whole nation will rise in defense of its right to live," Saddam said. "Their [aggressors'] arrows will go astray or backfire, God willing."
In an appeal for Arab support, Saddam said "Western peoples and circles" had long interfered with the nations of the Middle East, "in particular Zionist Jews and Zionists who are not of the Jewish people."
"Long live Palestine, free and Arab, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river," he said.
Saddam didn't refer to Bush by name but alluded to him as Hologu, the grandson of Genghis Khan, whose Mongol armies in 1258 attacked Baghdad from four sides, sacked the city and killed the Caliph, effectively putting an end to the unified Arab-Persian Islamic empire.
Repeated references to Baghdad, rather than Iraq, appeared to be a sign that Saddam plans to rally his troops around the capital for a decisive battle aimed at inflicting as many casualties as possible on U.S. forces, if Bush decides on a military attack to force Iraqi disarmament.
On Jan. 17, 1991, a U.S.-led coalition launched devastating air attacks against Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, opening Operation Desert Storm, which drove Iraqi invaders out of Kuwait.
Saddam has depicted the events of 1991 as a victory because Iraq stood up to a superpower and because his regime managed to survive invasion and subsequent uprisings.
"The scheming of attackers backfired in that aggression, which they are continuing until the present day, all backed by aggression and wishful thinking," Saddam said.
With the possibility of a new war looming, Saddam called on Iraqis to "hold your swords and guns up high to remind those who might under illusions ... that your country will stand firm."
He said the Bush administration has been "pushed by Zionists and interest-seekers to play a role of wild and destructive instincts instead of the civilized behavior that is expected in this age."
Immediately after the speech, several thousand Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad to voice their support for the president.
The anniversary did not hinder U.N. weapons inspectors, who pressed on with their task to determine if Iraq has disarmed as it maintains. Bush has warned that this is Iraq's last chance to give up mass destruction weapons or face war.
The current crisis erupted after the United States and Britain accused Iraq of maintaining weapons of mass destruction banned under U.N. resolutions approved after the Gulf war. They threatened military force unless Saddam disarmed.
The Iraqi government says it no longer has any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons and submitted a 12,000-page declaration to the United Nations last month that it said proved its case.
Chief inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei have said Iraq's declaration is incomplete and fails to support its claims to have destroyed banned weapons. Blix and ElBaradei will travel to Baghdad for talks Sunday and Monday.
Inspectors visited military industry sites in the Faluga area west of Baghdad, and a farm near Juwesma, southwest of the capital on Friday. They had to pass a protest by some 200 members of the Iraqi journalists' union who protested against them outside the hotel where the U.N. staff live.
Blix, in Paris for a meeting with French President Jacques Chirac, said Friday he was unsure if the 11 rocket warheads found Thursday were already listed in Iraq's 12,000-page declaration.
Blix and ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. nuclear agency, are seeking more time for the inspections, and Chirac supported them despite growing American impatience.
"It is only wise to agree to this request," Chirac said. "Give them more time to work to bring about a more detailed response."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.