SADDAM Hussein has warned of catastrophic bloodshed if the West invades Iraq, in an interview the dictator has given to a maverick Scottish Labour MP.
Audaciously quoting Winston Churchill during a meeting with George Galloway in an underground bunker near Baghdad last week, Saddam said: "We will fight on the streets, from the rooftops, from house to house. We will never surrender."
In an attempt to avert war with Britain, Saddam appears to make important concessions to Tony Blair, announcing that he would implement all UN resolutions on Iraq and admit weapons inspectors without hindrance.
He also puts forward an emotional case for restoring relations between Britain and Iraq. Stressing Iraq’s traditional respect for this country, Saddam said: "We don’t know why you turned against us more than any other European country."
MPs were last night studying the remarks the dictator gave to Galloway, a frequent visitor to Iraq.
They saw his initiative as an attempt to capitalise on growing unease within Labour over Blair’s backing for the George Bush invasion strategy.
"He wants to drive a wedge between Mr Blair and his party, and if he succeeds in that then he has also driven a wedge between Britain and US," said a senior foreign policy adviser.
"Without us it will be that much harder for America to invade."
While Galloway is considered a maverick within Westminster, he does represents a growing section of the Labour left which is firmly opposed to the prospect of war.
The Glasgow MP claims he has asked Tony Blair for an urgent meeting to discuss Saddam’s message.
The Prime Minister has appeared isolated and unsure about the subject of a new military campaign with the US against Iraq.
Downing Street issued conflicting signals last week, at first appearing to play down the likelihood of war before a Number 10 official again talked up invasion on Saturday.
Labour MPs and trade union leaders also promised to challenge Blair over the issue at this year’s Labour Party conference while several cabinet ministers including international development secretary, Claire Short and Robin Cook, Leader of the Commons, are believed to be prepared to resign if British troops are sent to the Gulf.
Galloway, who interviewed Saddam for the Mail on Sunday, met the dictator in a secret bunker so deep underground that the descent took 20 seconds in a fast lift.
The MP said: "The security was dramatic but I was grateful for it. A cruise missile launched at the bunker would not have distinguished between Saddam and me. I believe the anti-war movement is growing in Britain and the message I’m bringing back from Saddam will encourage them."