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Saddam Says US, Britain to Use Pretext to Launch War - 2003-02-04

A British television channel has aired an interview with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. It was conducted by former long-time Labor party politician Tony Benn for Channel Four Television in Baghdad two days ago.

In a free and wide-ranging interview, a calm-looking Saddam Hussein stressed that he believes the U.S. and Britain will use, what he called, any pretext to launch a war against his nation.

He said it was, as he saw it, a battle for oil.

"This argument has appealed to some United States administrations, especially the current one, that if they control the oil in the Middle East, they would be able to control the world," he said.

Questioned by former British elder statesman and anti-war activist, Tony Benn, the Iraqi leader said he does not want confrontation. He does not want war.

Asked directly if his country has any weapons of mass destruction, the Iraqi leader responded. "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," he said.

Saddam Hussein was asked if there is any link between his government and the al-Qaida terrorist network. "If we had a relationship with al-Qaida and we believed in that relationship, we would not 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-Qaida," he said.

At the conclusion of the interview, Tony Benn, who is now back in London, said that if a war does result, he fears the damage done to the Christian and Muslim worlds could last for hundreds and hundreds of years.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair says the interview does not change the fact that Saddam Hussein still must cooperate fully with the U.N. weapons inspectors.