BAGHDAD — Iraq declared a "holy war" on U.N. sanctions Sunday, calling for a 1-million-strong volunteer force to push for an end to the seven-year embargo it says has caused widespread starvation and death.
"We are determined [to carry out] a great jihad to lift the sanctions," Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said. "There is no alternative to this after seven years of patience and cooperation with the United Nations and its committees."
The Iraqi News Agency quoted Ramadan as saying 1 million people, men and women, would be given weapons training in a volunteer force beginning next month. Iraq called on its people to enlist for the training earlier Sunday.
Ramadan did not say how they could overthrow the sanctions regime, imposed in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait.
The United States says the sanctions can be lifted only when U.N. weapons inspectors affirm that Iraq has dismantled all elements of its weapons of mass destruction.
Both sides have stressed that they are not seeking military confrontation but that their patience is wearing thin.
"We have entered the eighth year of sanctions, with all the patience and cooperation which Iraq has shown during the past seven years. But there is nothing to indicate that the sanctions will be lifted by a decision of the [U.N.] Security Council," the news service quoted Ramadan as saying.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is digging himself a "deeper hole" on sanctions.
"Threatening to throw UNSCOM [the U.N. Special Commission] out does not solve the situation for Saddam Hussein," Albright told NBC-TV's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. The commission is charged with scrapping Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
She said Hussein's statements "make very clear he is digging the sanctions hole deeper, because he can't get out of it if UNSCOM is not able to do its work and declare that he in fact has fulfilled his obligations."