- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2003

LONDON Saddam Hussein claimed in a rare interview with a Westerner broadcast yesterday that the United States wants to conquer Iraq so it can "control the world" and insisted his regime does not have weapons of mass destruction.
A retired British lawmaker and peace activist, Tony Benn, conducted the 40-minute interview, in which the Iraqi leader spoke slowly in precise, careful tones, his voice at times falling very low, as he sipped from a cup of Arabic coffee in what appeared to be a room in one of his palaces.
Saddam accused Washington of fabricating false claims as a pretext to seize Iraq's oil fields. He said Iraq does not want war and is willing to work with U.N. weapons inspectors if they have no ulterior purpose.
"Iraq has no interest in war. No Iraqi official or ordinary citizens have expressed a wish to go to war," he said in the interview Sunday in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
"If the intention [of inspections] is to confirm that Iraq is free of biological and chemical and nuclear weapons, then they can do so. These weapons are not some aspirin pill someone can hide in his pocket. These are weapons of mass destruction, so it's simple to determine if Iraq has them or not," he said.
Saddam, dressed in a dark suit, sat across a table from Mr. 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.
Analysts who have watched Saddam for years said he showed no sign of strain, despite the current confrontation with Washington.
Saddam also insisted his regime has no ties with al Qaeda. "If we had a relationship with al Qaeda, and we believed in that relationship, we wouldn't be ashamed to admit it," the Iraqi leader told Mr. Benn, who traveled to Baghdad in a bid to stop a war.
Saddam has not given an interview to a foreign television journalist in 12 years, according to Mr. Benn. He said during the interview that Saddam had declined his offer to see the questions beforehand.
Although his portraits and statues are everywhere, the Iraqi leader hardly ever appears in public, and until the past month he hadn't been seen much on tightly controlled Iraqi state television. But lately Saddam's picture has been dominating the airwaves, usually in excerpts of him meeting with officers and aides.
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."
An Iraqi TV cameraman filmed the interview, which Mr. Benn conducted for a new outlet called Arab Television, a yet-to-be-started Arab TV station with administrative offices in London.
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.

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