Saddam Hussein denied any connection between his government and the al Qaeda terrorist network, and said Iraq has no banned weapons.
In his first Western TV interview in more than a decade, Hussein insisted that he is not linked to al Qaeda and has no banned weapons. The interview will be broadcast on 60 Minutes II on Wednesday, Feb. 5, at 9 PM ET/PT.
Plus: Dan Rather will interview Secretary Of State Colin Powell, exclusively on 60 Minutes II. Rather will talk to him following Powell's historic speech at the United Nations today.
"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," he said in a television interview with retired British lawmaker Tony Benn for a new television network called Arab Television.
Correspondent Bob Simon talks to Benn, an anti-war activist who interviewed Hussein on Sunday.
Saddam, dressed in a dark suit, sat across a table from Benn in a gilded chair in front of a curtain and a white, black and red Iraqi flag with three green stars. Occasionally he turned a pen in his hands, lining it up precisely on a green book on the table before him.
Saddam said Iraq wanted U.N. inspections to succeed to prove that it does not have weapons of mass destruction.
"It is in our interests to help them (inspectors) reach the truth," Saddam said. "The question is whether the other side wants to reach the truth or whether it wants to find a pretext for aggression."
During the interview, Saddam claimed that Washington was intent on seizing Iraq's oil fields so that it could exert a stranglehold on the rest of the world and dictate to other powers, including China, Russia, Germany, France and Japan. He said Israel was inspiring U.S. hostility to Iraq.
"If you want to control the world, you must control oil, and one of the most important requirements for controlling oil is to destroy Iraq," he said. "One of the main reasons for the aggression that the American administration is engaged in is to control the world."
Saddam said no nation — even one with the power of the United States — could tell the world what to do. "If this person chooses to stay on this planet and ignore the rest of the world, then the least we can say is that this person is lacking in wisdom," he added.
"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 so. 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."
Benn has been strongly critical of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's calls for tough action against Iraq. Blair failed in a fresh attempt Tuesday to persuade a reluctant France to join a U.S.-led coalition ready to move against Saddam if necessary.
The Iraqi leaders remarks came as U.N. weapons inspectors U.N. weapons inspectors announced they've come across another empty chemical warhead in Iraq. It's not clear whether the one found today at an ammunition depot north of Baghdad is connected with four others Iraq says it found last month at the same depot. Inspectors also found a dozen of the same type of warhead at a separate depot on January 16th. Iraq has said the empty warheads are simply overlooked leftovers from the 1980s.
On Wednesday, Secretary Of State Colin Powell is expected to unveil newly declassified intelligence that the Bush administration hopes will convince members that, in fact, Saddam is defying U.N. inspections — a finding that could pave the way for war. An administration official said Powell will present satellite photographs and transcripts of overheard conversations among Iraqi officials.
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