Iraq on Saturday rejected a U.N. offer to sell $2 billion worth of oil to buy food and medicine, opting instead to launch a huge anti-American propaganda campaign.
Thousands of people, mostly government employees, staged two noisy demonstrations Saturday in the Iraqi capital, rallies reminiscent of those in the days before the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Demonstrators in business suits marched through the streets holding placards with photos of President Saddam Hussein and banners denouncing the United States and the United Nations.
“I think the voices of the masses have expressed the Iraqi stand,” parliament speaker Sadi Mahdi Saleh told Associated Press Television at one protest. “What you have heard from the people is rejection to this decision.”
The leaders of the ruling Baath party, meanwhile, unleashed a diatribe against the Clinton administration.
“We need to fight the holy war against Satan America until our victory,” said Abdul Gani Abdul Ghafoor, chief of the Baghdad chapter.
Both demonstrations appeared organized by the government.
The U.N. Security Council voted Friday to allow Iraq to sell up to $2 billion worth of oil over 180 days to get money. Part of the proceeds would be used for humanitarian needs. Iraqis are suffering deep privations under the U.N. trade sanctions imposed after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Iraq, however, wants the sanctions lifted completely - something unlikely to happen soon. Washington maintains Saddam has yet to fully comply with U.N. terms set after the Gulf war.
U.N. weapons inspectors this month reported that Baghdad may be working on germ warfare agents in defiance of U.N. resolutions that ban it.