Former Iraqi ambassador says Saddam deserved to be overthrown

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

CAIRO, Egypt -- Iraq's U.N. ambassador during the final days of Saddam Hussein's regime now says his government deserved to be overthrown -- but it should have been done by Iraqis not the U.S.-led coalition.

In a television interview broadcast Monday by BBC World, Mohammed al-Douri said that right up until the last moment, Saddam's government did not believe the United States and Britain would invade Iraq.

"Naji Sabri (the foreign minister), he told me: 'Don't be anxious. This war will never happen."'

Al-Douri said he advised Baghdad the threat of war was serious and he still cannot explain why they refused to accept it.

Al-Douri was the first senior Iraqi official to acknowledge that the war was lost after U.S. troops overran Baghdad on April 9.

He has not returned to Baghdad, contrary to orders issued to all Iraqi ambassadors last month, and is believed to be in the United Arab Emirates.

The BBC said the interview took place in the Gulf.

He said he thought people were glad Saddam was gone, "but they are not glad that the Americans and British are there."

Asked if Saddam's regime deserved to be toppled, al-Douri said: "Not by you, but by the Iraqi people."

The BBC asked him about the mass graves of hundreds of executed Iraqis that have been uncovered since the fall of Saddam.

"Those are Iraqi people, my brothers, so I regret that and I hope that all people responsible for that, for these graves have to be presented to the trial, to the judgment and to be judged by Iraqi people, not by British or American," al-Douri said.

Interviewer Tim Sebastian asked him if he was ashamed of having served Saddam's regime.

"No, I'm never ashamed that I have been involved because I'm always considering myself as serving my country, my people and not the government," he replied.

As ambassador to the United Nations, al-Douri insisted that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. In the BBC interview, he largely stuck to that claim, saying the government had told him these weapons were destroyed in 1991-92.

He comes from al-Dour, a town 80 miles north of Baghdad and only 10 miles south of Tikrit, Saddam's hometown. Its inhabitants tend to belong to Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority, like Saddam, and they benefited from his regime. Saddam's deputy on the Revolutionary Command Council came from al-Dour.

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