TEHRAN, Iran – Denouncing Saddam Hussein as a "bloodthirsty wolf," Iran's supreme leader expressed relief at his capture but said the world would also be better off without President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search).
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (search) recalled that the United States ignored Tehran's early warnings about Saddam and supported Iraq's war against Iran in the 1980s that killed more than a million people on both sides.
"The same Americans who are against Saddam now, including the current secretary of defense (Donald Rumsfeld), shook hands with him in Baghdad and supported him to put Iran under pressure," Khamenei told several thousand Iranians gathered in Qazvin, about 100 miles west of Tehran. The speech aired live on state-run television.
Khamenei said he was relieved at the capture of "a bloodthirsty wolf in the shape of a human being."
But if there were any illusions that the removal of Iran's longtime foe would win Washington any points with the country's hard-line clerics, Khamenei quickly dispelled them, pointing to Bush's remarks the day before.
"I heard the U.S. president has said the world is better without Saddam. I want to tell him that the world will be even better without Bush and Sharon," Khamenei said.
His speech prompted chants of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel."
Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters in the Islamic republic, repeated his warning to the United States that God would destroy it as a superpower.
"Those who imagine that their power is eternal should look at the fate of Saddam ... and the former Soviet Union," Khamenei said. He added that Bush and Israeli leaders "will not have a better fate than that of Saddam."
Bush has grouped Iran alongside Saddam's Iraq in the "axis of evil" — a trio filled out by North Korea.
On Monday, Iran urged that Saddam be tried before an international court, saying the court must hear which nations sold him weapons during the 1980-88 war.
Several countries sold weapons to Iraq, including the former Soviet Union, France and Egypt. The United States is known to have provided intelligence and civilian helicopters, and Iranians believe that Washington also supplied weapons.