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Iraq's Aziz claims war success

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz says the war against U.S. and British invasion forces is going well, and he has described Iraq's decision to use suicide bombings as heroic.

"When you fight an invader by whatever means available to you, you are not a terrorist; you are a hero," he told the ABC television network on Sunday, a day after an Iraqi officer killed four U.S. soldiers in a suicide bombing at a checkpoint near Najaf.

Aziz said Iraq has been bringing in would-be suicide bombers from other parts of the Muslim world for further attacks on the U.S.-led invasion force.

"From outside or from inside (Iraq), these people are heroes. They are freedom fighters against invaders, against colonialists, against imperialists," he said.

In a version of the ABC interview screened by the BBC in London, Aziz also said Iraqi leaders were not surprised by the strength of resistance against U.S. and British troops.

"The war is going very well as far as we see it, and as far as realities are," he said in remarks aired on the 11th day of the conflict.

"They are surprised that the Iraqi people are resisting them courageously with a great determination to deter them. We are not surprised, we expected that, we said that," he said.

Aziz said he had spoken to a number of American journalists including one who suggested the Iraqi people would receive U.S. troops with music and flowers.

"I told them that the Iraqi people are going to fight back ... The Iraqis are going to receive the Americans with bullets," he said.

Iraqi forces were prepared to fight on in hopes of drawing out the war and exhausting America's will to fight, he told ABC. "We can end this war when the invaders withdraw totally, unconditionally from the Iraqi territory," Aziz said.

U.S. aircraft applied relentless pressure on Iraqi positions in and around Baghdad on Sunday as U.S. military leaders fended off growing criticism of their war plans and insisted the campaign was still on course.

Faced with much stronger than expected opposition from regular and irregular forces loyal to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, U.S. troops dug in south of Baghdad, apparently in no rush to assault the Iraqi capital until air strikes and artillery had ground down its defenders.


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