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Top Iraqi Cleric: Be Ready To Fight

In a sermon broadcast nationwide Friday, the Muslim Sabbath, a senior Iraqi cleric insisted that U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan not try to dictate peace on American terms, or offer up a weak deal that Iraq could only reject, giving the United States an excuse to attack.

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"We do not want the initiative to be a justification for a military strike," Sheik Abdul Latif Humaim declared.

"We do not fear the strength of the monster [America] no matter what it is...because [Iraq] feels that God is on its side," Humaim added.

He said Iraq will seek peace if the other side has peaceful intentions. But if war is inevitable, the sheik said: "You Iraqis be prepared for armed resistance."

Humaim did not elaborate, but the Iraqis have often said they want the United Nations to respect its national sovereignty and keep out of presidential palaces.

Still, Iraq has said it is willing to cooperate with Annan fully to find a peaceful solution.

The United States says it reserves the right to reject any deal Annan makes and to attack Iraq in a bid to destroy its suspected arsenal of biological and chemical weapons. The Clinton administration has set no deadline for the attack.

©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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