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interview: mohammed aldouri

When we do interviews with people here in the United States who believe that your nation is involved in terrorism, they start out and say that the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, that Ramzi Yousef, who's been convicted in the bombing, actually had assistance from or some relationship with the Iraqi government in obtaining identification and assistance in his travels, etc.

Honestly, it is not true. There is nothing to prove that. And my government always denies that. ...

One of the people who was indicted in the 1993 World Trade Center, a man named Mr. Yasin, is an American citizen of Iraqi nationality. He fled the United States and he went to Baghdad, and, until recently at least, was in Baghdad. He is one of the most wanted people according to the FBI of terrorists in the world, and he's in your country.

To my knowledge, he is not. To my knowledge, he is not, and there is no any relation with him. He is an American citizen, to my knowledge. We deny these allegations completely.

He phoned the United States from Baghdad. He was there.

I do not know about that. I know nothing, really.

You don't know whether he's there or not?

Absolutely. I know that there is no relation with that guy, absolutely.

So someone just made that up?

Absolutely. ... We have no relations with these kinds of guys, with all persons who are involved with terrorism. ...

In 1993, former President Bush visited Kuwait. U.S. authorities said there was a plot to assassinate him; explosives were found. And the CIA and the FBI say that the explosives came from Iraq.

Iraqi people, and Iraqi government, when they listen to these kind of allegation of information, they laugh. And me personally, I laugh, too. I am not here to deny everything, but to tell you the truth -- that this is also fake, just fake. And they know very well here, the CIA, that this is a fake.

Recently there are reports... But we interviewed a former captain in the Iraqi army who was at Salman Pak, who talks about training of non-Iraqi Arabs in hijacking airplanes and other terrorist activities. Another former Iraqi official in your intelligence service is saying similar things, and that this training was going on as late as October of last year.

I am lucky that I know the area, this Salman Pak. This is a very beautiful area with gardens, with trees. River is there, very, very nice place. It is not possible to do such a program there, because there's no place for planes. ...

The former U.N. inspectors who worked for the United Nations say that they saw this Boeing 707 on the ground at Salman Pak.

I don't think so, really. Honestly, I don't think so. This is not true, honestly.

Mohammed Aldouri is the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations. In this interview, he denies that Iraq has any connection with Osama bin Laden or the terrorist attacks in the U.S. He also denies that Iraq has a terrorist training camp in Salman Pak, maintains a biological weapons program, or, years ago, gassed its own people in Kurdistan. This interview took place on October 29, 2001.

You don't believe it exists.

Not at all. ...

Much of this information is coming through the Iraqi National Congress. Could you explain to our audience who your government believes they are, and what they are?

The Iraqi Congress live in Britain. Even they do spend their life there. They have never been in Iraq. Another part, they fled the country, 13, 14 years before. And they constitute this group, so-called Iraqi Congress.

Iraqi National Congress.

They are based in London mainly. And they have a very good relations here with the CIA and with the FBI, with the government of the United States. They are backed by the government of United States. And they have been paid -- they have always been paid -- by United States. ...

They would describe themselves as a dissident organization that's set up to overthrow your government, and create democracy in Iraq.

Yes, with the help of CIA, with the help of FBI, and the help of the British Secret Service. How do you think that Iraqi citizen can trust those people who are being paid by foreigners, prepared by foreigners, who are killing on a daily basis their own people, they are seeking their help to overthrow the government of Iraq? It's not possible to trust those people. Some of them, even they cannot speak Arabic very well, because ... they spend their life in Britain.

We have interviewed Mr. Hamza. We've interviewed Mr. Butler. They both say that Iraq has -- and will continue to build -- weapons of mass destruction.

The reason for being here in the United States for Mr. Hamza, he has to do something. So he said whatever he said, he wrote whatever he wrote. And, you know, he has to do that, otherwise he has no reason to stay. ... What about Mr. Butler? ... He is not honest man on all levels, even with his own government. ... Mr. Butler, we know him in Iraq very well. But, please, you have to go to the United Nations here, and in New York, and to ask about the reputation of this gentleman. He is a biased man, and very well known for that. ...

There were three Iraqi diplomats whose names have been mentioned regularly in the last month in relationship to the events of September 11. One is Samir al-Ani, who was in Prague. Do you know him?

... Yes, I think he's a junior diplomat. He was in Prague for awhile, and he left Prague. He is now in Iraq, of course.

But the government of Czechoslovakia has asked him to leave.

I think so, yes. ...

You know that the allegation is that he, according to the Czech Interior Ministry, met with Mohamed Atta in Prague in April of this year.

First of all, our Vice Prime Minister Mr. Tariq Aziz said clearly that he denies these allegations, saying that there is no such meeting between this gentleman and Mr. Atta. This is the first.

The second, the government of Czech at that time gave the real reason to ask Mr. al-Ani to leave the country. This is a relation with this Liberty Radio, I think. ...

Voice of America.

Voice of America, which is American...

They asked him to leave because they felt he was threatening Voice of America, and/or Radio Free Europe.

They alleged that.

But they have confirmed that they believe that he met with Mr. Atta, who did come to Prague.

Well, the Iraqi government denies that, so... Certainly we know what our people are doing outside. And those people have to prove that... The position of my government [is] that there is no such meeting between those two guys.

Faruk Hijazi, Iraq's ambassador in Turkey, former intelligence official in Iraq, right?

Just in name, I know him. But he is now our ambassador in Turkey. ...

You know the allegation that he has traveled to Afghanistan...

I read it in the media.

And your government says...

Denies that. And even himself denies that.

And then there's recent allegations about the Iraqi school in Rome, that it was used as a front, as a cover for intelligence operations.

You know, you can say whatever you want to say now with this atmosphere. ... There's a campaign against my country, so they will use whatever they have. ...

To take that comment a next step... As the media in the United States is trying to find out what's going on, we would need to investigate to come to some conclusion. Would your government allow me to meet with these people?

Which people?

Mr. Hijazi, Mr. al-Ani?

Mr. Hijazi is in Turkey, our ambassador there.

Can I go there and meet with him?

You can ask him. I don't know really. And Mr. al-Ani ... I think our vice prime minister said that clearly he would not allow a junior diplomat to have contact with the media.

You know that the allegation in today's paper is that Mr. al-Ani allegedly gave a bottle or vacuum bottle of anthrax to Mr. Atta.

You know, this is also another...

The anthrax?

Yes. I follow all the informations, and also the position of my government ... And yesterday, the CBS I think on "60 Minutes," there was a very clear position of Iraqi side of those responsible on that program in Iraq at that time, a problem of anthrax, saying, "Yes, we have this program; we have had this program in the time, but first, we never reach these kind of anthrax, I mean in powder -- never. It was liquid."

And also we, Iraqi government, Iraq side, destroyed all what we have from that anthrax. Not only us, but also the UNSCOM, the people of UNSCOM also participate to the destruction of that kind of weapons. So Iraq is clear of that. There is no question to return back on that. And we have never used that weapons.

Your government says that you did have an anthrax program at one time.

Of course, yes.

But it was not the kind of anthrax that...

This was liquid, only liquid. Not in powder.

Do you still have an anthrax program?

No, absolutely. We don't need it. ... We have a very clear-cut position that we have no more such kind of weapons at all. ...

Are we already at war with Iraq?

Look, we consider ourselves from 1991 until now, we are in war, unfortunately, with the United States and with Britain because we have, on a daily basis, a strike against Iraq by warrior planes. So on a daily basis, so there is always attacks here and there, in the south, in the north, in Baghdad. Unfortunately, this is the reality.

So what do you qualify other than war, but a special war? It's different from what is going on in Afghanistan. It is different from what has been done in 1991. But this is the reality. And really we don't know the reason. Nobody in Iraq can understand really why the United States attacks Iraq on a daily basis. This is a question, and we still raise this question everywhere. There is no reason for that. ... We are so far from United States. We are not attacking United States. We want to live in peace within the area.

So why the United States attacks us always? They try to find a justification, a kind of justification, which is not justifiable at all. They are doing that. For this reason, we are really worried about that, that this propaganda is a kind of preparation to wage a war against my country.

You mean an escalation of what you already see?

Escalation, yes...

So basically your country believes that you've been at war with the United States for a better part of a decade or more?

For the whole decade.

Well, set aside for a minute the various allegations about Iraq being involved in terrorism. If you're at war, then you would have a motivation to attack us, wouldn't you? And from your point of view, it would be in self-defense.

We have not the same argumentation as America's. We defend ourselves there on the ground -- this is the self-defense -- and not to come, to go elsewhere to do self-defense. ...

What is your government's official position on what happened to the United States on September 11?

Well, I think our position was clarified some days after by two letters sent by our government. ... Our president addressed two letters to the American people trying to explain in a very clear words expression the Iraqi position.

What is the Iraqi position?

In short, we are not terrorists. ... We never used this kind of action anywhere in the world. We did not condone those people who did this attack here in New York and in Washington. And also our president tell American government to be wise enough to use their mind, their wisdom, and not to just to use their force, because you will never succeed only with force. You have to use your wisdom. You have to be wise enough to confront the reality, of what is going on.

We haven't been happy for that at all. You know, you lost innocent people here, and we are losing innocent people in Iraq, as there is innocent people in Afghanistan who are losing their lives. So you cannot really enjoy these kind of actions. The loser always is innocent people -- children, women, the normal people who are not really involved with any action, political or other military action.

One of the demands of Osama bin Laden and his organization, Al Qaeda, is to stop the bombing of Iraq and the sanctions.

Yes. You know, first of all, the American government and the CIA and the FBI and the Pentagon and the foreign office, the White House -- all those people know very well that we -- this is not to justify -- but we have not any kind of relations with the Taliban or with Osama bin Laden.

They didn't come to Saddam's birthday party?

Absolutely not. We have no relations in any kind of relations with them, any kind of relations. ... We have no relations with those people in the past and now. This is just a kind of allegations, as you know.

In the past, Iraq has given a home to many people who, in the West, we considered terrorists: the Abu Nidal organization at one time, various PLO-related organizations or Palestinian organizations. These are organizations that, in the West, are considered to be terrorist in nature. So why should we believe that Iraq hasn't, because of similar, let's say, views of the world in certain ways, at least the ways of analyzing the world, assisted in some way?

We never considered, and we will not consider the Palestinian organization now who are fighting for their survival as terrorists. You have to forget that. Not one single Arab will think like you about Palestinians. They are our brothers. They are fighting for their independence, for their states, for their homeland, for their return to their villages and to their country, in short. So we will never consider them as terrorists, these organizations. ...

You acknowledge that for the last ten years there's basically been a state of war between the United States and Iraq from the perspective of the Iraqi government?

Yes, in two directions. The first is striking against Iraq, and the second, imposing sanctions, this very hardship sanction on Iraq, on the people of Iraq.

And when people in the Islamic world -- and by this I mean the Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar, and others -- say to us, "Yes, there are sanctions. But part of the reason why these sanctions are creating so much havoc in Iraq is your government is diverting the income it gets to itself and to its own palaces and pleasure and corruption and military while the people suffer."

Well, I cannot accept this kind of language; certainly not. This is not a very good language, corruption and so on. We are honest people. We are honest government. We are really struggling for our future, for the life of our people. ... We are struggling for our survival. And the United States is mainly responsible for that. Otherwise, it would not put on hold contracts for civilian needs, for civilian goods for more than $4 billion. ... So medicine, food, electricity, water, all our civilian needs are now on hold here, put on hold by the representative of the United States and United Nations. ...

If you had a chance to talk for a couple of minutes to President Bush, the younger President Bush, what would you tell him?

I would tell him we are not against Americans; we are not against United States. You have, as Americans, to stop imposing sanctions on Iraq and to cancel this no-fly zone and try to have a just position vis-à-vis the problem of Palestine. This is what I have to tell him in two or three minutes. ...

How do you look at Mr. bin Laden and his organization? Are they outlaws? Are they misguided? Are they motivated by the right reasons but are carrying it out in the wrong way?

Really, I don't know about them. The Americans know about them much better than me and the Iraqi governments, because I think in a time they have been friends. ...

To many people in the United States, to many people arguing that we should "Do something about Saddam Hussein." ...

Yes, this is the campaign that you actually hear in the media.

The campaign is to do something?

Yes, to try to change, to topple our regime, to change the government, to control Iraq, in short.

And one reason people say that this should be done is that Iraq has gassed its own people in Kurdistan. Iraq had a biological weapons program, anthrax and others, documented by the United Nations. Iraq invaded Kuwait. Iraq -- under Saddam Hussein, your government -- committed various atrocities, both in your own country, against your own people, and is responsible for other activities around the world. So there's motivation, and you have the means to hurt the United States, so let's do it now.

We have no means to hurt United States and we don't want to do that. And also this is propaganda we know -- not just now, for 50 years -- these allegations because of the Zionist dominance of the media here in the United States. This is the main reason.

But did you gas your own people?

Absolutely not. ...

Did Iraq have a biological weapons program?

Yes, we do have the program. We did it as all countries in the world. And now it has been destroyed completely. You have also to ask what is going on in Israel. Why you don't do that? You have to ask what is going on in Iran. Nobody asks about that. What is going on in Turkey? What is going on everywhere in the world? Why you are singling out Iraq? This is a question also you have to ask yourself.

And why do you think that is?

Because there is here a kind of animosity, a general atmosphere created by the Zionist people here, controlling the media, finance, and the government, and the Congress, and they oriented the United States against Iraq. That's the solid reason I think there is a part of that relation to the position of Iraq vis-à-vis Palestine. This is very well known. ...

There's a big debate going on in Washington. Should we attack Saddam Hussein and Iraq? "Take him out," is what they say. Let's say we do that. What will the reaction of Iraq be to us attacking, and what will the reaction be in the Islamic world?

First of all, there is information that you prepare more than 1,000 missiles to attack Iraq and other kinds of preparation. If you will attack Iraq, anyway we are preparing ourselves to face that, with all means what we have, what we are capable to do. We will fight, certainly. We will fight you in the sense of defending ourselves, not to attack United States because we have no capability to do that. But we will defend ourselves.

And certainly we have behind us the Iraqi people, the whole Iraqi people. Even those who are in some way against their own government, I think they will come on our side. And certainly Arabic people and Muslim people will stand behind us. So I think you will be the loser and not the winner in that war.

And we think that is a stupid action if it will happen, because there is no reason for that. There is not any reason which can justify this kind of action. There is no reason for that. So why you should have to do that?

Well, there's the belief that Iraq -- and Saddam Hussein has said -- that Iraq eventually will gain revenge for what happened ten years ago, that you will even the score eventually.

Yes, but in which sense? We will not come to United States to get revenge of that -- certainly not.

But it would be justified. If you see us as attacking you, wouldn't you feel justified attacking us?

No, absolutely not. This is against our morals. This is against the international law. We will defend ourselves. We have no possibility to come to attack you. And you initiate that; we will not initiate. We have no intention to initiate any kind of aggression against the United States. We have only to defend ourselves.

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