The transcript was provided by the UK Press
Benn: I come for one reason only --
to see whether in a talk we can explore, or you can help me
to see, what the paths to peace may be. My only reason, I
remember the war because I lost a brother. I never want to
see another war.
There are millions of people all over the
world who don't want a war, and by agreeing to this interview,
which is very historic for all of us, I hope you will be able
to help me be able to say something to the world that is significant
Saddam: Welcome to Baghdad. You are
conscious of the role that Iraqis have set out for themselves,
inspired by their own culture, their civilisation and their
role in human history. This role requires peace in order to
prosper and progress. Having said that, the Iraqis are committed
to their rights as much as they are committed to the rights
of others. Without peace they will be faced with many obstacles
that would stop them from fulfilling their human role.
Benn: Mr President, may I ask you some
questions. The first is, does Iraq have any weapons of mass
Saddam: Most Iraqi officials have been
in power for over 34 years and have experience of dealing
with the outside world. Every fair-minded person knows that
when Iraqi officials say something, they are trustworthy.
A few minutes ago when you asked me if I wanted to look at
the questions beforehand I told you I didn't feel the need
so that we don't waste time, and I gave you the freedom to
ask me any question directly so that my reply would be direct.
This is an opportunity to reach the British
people and the forces of peace in the world. There is only
one truth and therefore I tell you as I have said on many
occasions before that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction
whatsoever. We challenge anyone who claims that we have to
bring forward any evidence and present it to public opinion.
Benn: I have another which has been
raised: Do you have links with al Qaeda?
Saddam: If we had a relationship with
al Qaeda and we believed in that relationship we wouldn't
be ashamed to admit it. Therefore I would like to tell you
directly and also through you to anyone who is interested
to know that we have no relationship with al Qaeda.
Benn: In relation to the inspectors,
there appears to be difficulties with inspectors, and I wonder
whether there's anything you can tell me about these difficulties
and whether you believe they will be cleared up before Mr
Hans Blix and Mr ElBaradei come back to Baghdad?
Saddam: You are aware that every major
event must encounter some difficulty. On the subject of the
inspectors and the resolutions that deal with Iraq you must
have been following it and you must have a view and a vision
as to whether these resolutions have any basis in international
Nevertheless the Security Council produced
them. These resolutions -- implemented or not - or the motivation
behind these resolutions could lead the current situation
to the path of peace or war. Therefore it's a critical situation.
Let us also remember the unjust suffering of the Iraqi people.
For the last 13 years since the blockade was
imposed, you must be aware of the amount of harm that it has
caused the Iraqi people, particularly the children and the
elderly, as a result of the shortage of food and medicine
and other aspects of their life. Therefore we are facing a
On that basis, it is not surprising that there
might be complaints relating to the small details of the inspection
which may be essential issues as far as we are concerned and
the way we see the whole thing. It is possible that those
Iraqis who are involved with the inspection might complain
about the conduct of the inspectors and they complain indeed.
It is also possible that some inspectors either
for reasons of practical and detailed procedure, or for some
other motives, may complain about the Iraqi conduct. Every
fair-minded person knows that as far as resolution 1441 is
concerned, the Iraqis have been fulfilling their obligations
under the resolution.
When Iraq objects to the conduct of those
implementing the Security Council resolutions, that doesn't
mean that Iraq wishes to push things to confrontation.Iraq
has no interest in war. No Iraqi official or ordinary citizen
has expressed a wish to go to war. The question should be
directed at the other side. Are they looking for a pretext
so they could justify war against Iraq?
If the purpose was to make sure that Iraq
is free of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons then they
can do that. These weapons do not come in small pills that
you can hide in your pocket. These are weapons of mass destruction
and it is easy to work out if Iraq has them or not. We have
said many times before and we say it again today that Iraq
is free of such weapons.
So when Iraq objects to the conduct of the
inspection teams or others, that doesn't mean that Iraq is
interested in putting obstacles before them which could hinder
the efforts to get to the truth. It is in our interest to
facilitate their mission to find the truth. The question is
does the other side want to get to the same conclusion or
are they looking for a pretext for aggression?
If those concerned prefer aggression then
it's within their reach. The super powers can create a pretext
any day to claim that Iraq is not implementing resolution
1441. They have claimed before that Iraq did not implement
the previous resolutions. However, after many years it became
clear that Iraq had complied with these resolutions. Otherwise,
why are they focusing now on the latest resolution and not
the previous ones?
Benn: May I broaden the question out,
Mr President, to the relations between Iraq and the UN, and
the prospects for peace more broadly, and I wonder whether
with all its weaknesses and all the difficulties, whether
you see a way in which the UN can reach that objective for
the benefit of humanity?
Saddam: The point you raised can be
found in the United Nations charter. As you know Iraq is one
of the founders and first signatories of the charter. If we
look at the representatives of two superpowers -- America
and Britain -- and look at their conduct and their language,
we would notice that they are more motivated by war than their
responsibility for peace.
And when they talk about peace all they do
is accuse others they wish to destroy in the name of peace.
They claim they are looking after the interests of their people.
You know as well as I do that this is not the truth. Yes the
world would respect this principle if it was genuinely applied.
It's not about power but it is about right and wrong, about
when we base our human relations on good, and respect this
principle. So it becomes simple to adhere to this principle
because anyone who violates it will be exposed to public opinion.
Benn: There are people who believe
this present conflict is about oil, and I wonder if you would
say something about how you see the enormous oil reserves
of Iraq being developed, first for the benefit of the people
of Iraq and secondly for the needs of mankind.
Saddam: When we speak about oil in
this part of the world -- we are an integral part of the world
- we have to deal with others in all aspects of life, economic
as well as social, technical, scientific and other areas.
It seems that the authorities in the U.S. are motivated by
aggression that has been evident for more than a decade against
The first factor is the role of those influential
people in the decision taken by the president of the U.S.
based on sympathy with the Zionist entity that was created
at the expense of Palestine and its people and their humanity.
These people force the hand of the American administration
by claiming that the Arabs pose a danger to Israel, without
remembering their obligation to God and how the Palestinian
people were driven out of their homeland.
The consecutive American administrations were
led down a path of hostility against the people of this region,
including our own nation and we are part of it. Those people
and others have been telling the various US administrations,
especially the current one, that if you want to control the
world you need to control the oil. Therefore the destruction
of Iraq is a pre-requisite to controlling oil.
That means the destruction of the Iraqi national
identity, since the Iraqis are committed to their principles
and rights according to international law and the UN charter.
It seems that this argument has appealed to some U.S. administrations
especially the current one that if they control the oil in
the Middle East, they would be able to control the world.
They could dictate to China the size of its
economic growth and interfere in its education system and
could do the same to Germany and France and perhaps to Russia
and Japan. They might even tell the same to Britain if its
oil doesn't satisfy its domestic consumption. It seems to
me that this hostility is a trademark of the current US administration
and is based on its wish to control the world and spread its
People have the right to say that if this
aggression by the American administration continues, it would
lead to widespread enmity and resistance.
We won't be able to develop the oil fields
or the oil industry and therefore create worldwide co-operation
as members of the human family when there is war, destruction
and death. Isn't it reasonable to question this approach and
conclude that this road will not benefit anyone including
America or its people? It may serve some short-term interests
or the interests of some influential powers in the US but
we can't claim that it serves the interest of the American
people in the long run or other nations.
Benn: There are tens of millions, maybe
hundreds of millions of people in Britain and America, in
Europe and worldwide, who want to see a peaceful outcome to
this problem , and they are the real Americans in my opinion,
the real British, the real French, the real Germans, because
they think of the world in terms of their children. I have
10 grandchildren and in my family there is English, Scottish,
American, French, Irish, Jewish, Indian and Muslim blood,
and for me politics is about their future, their survival.
And I wonder whether you could say something yourself directly
through this interview to the peace movement of the world
that might help to advance the cause they have in mind?
Saddam: First of all we admire the
development of the peace movement around the world in the
last few years. We pray to God to empower all those working
against war and for the cause of peace and security based
on just peace for all. And through you we say to the British
people that Iraqis do not hate the British people.
Before 1991 Iraq and Britain had a normal
relationship as well as normal relations with America. At
that time the British governments had no reason to criticise
Iraq as we hear some voices doing these days. We hope the
British people would tell those who hate the Iraqis and wish
them harm that there is no reason to justify this war and
please tell them that I say to you because the British people
are brave -- tell them that the Iraqis are brave too.
Tell the British people if the Iraqis are
subjected to aggression or humiliation they would fight bravely.
Just as the British people did in the Second World War and
we will defend our country as they defended their country
each in its own way. The Iraqis don't wish war but if war
is imposed upon them -- if they are attacked and insulted
-- they will defend themselves. They will defend their country,
their sovereignty and their security. We will not disappoint
those who believe in the principles of justice. And we will
uphold the principles of justice and right that we strongly