Thursday, June 26, 2003

BAGHDAD — Saddam Hussein’s former information minister said in television interviews yesterday that he plans to write a book about his experiences in which he will reveal details about the collapse of the Ba’athist regime.

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, who amused international audiences with his wildly inaccurate claims of Iraqi victory over U.S. troops during the war, went public yesterday after his release from a brief period of detention and interrogation by coalition forces.

His news conferences earned him the name “Comical Ali,” a play on the more sinister “Chemical Ali.”

Interviewers who spoke to him at the home of a friend were shown a document issued by the coalition that purportedly assured his ability to move freely around Baghdad so long as he remained available for further questioning.

The treatment contrasts with that of many fellow Ba’athist Cabinet ministers, who are being held in spartan conditions in a high-security facility near Baghdad’s airport.

Mr. al-Sahhaf, who was picked up for questioning outside his home in Baghdad on Monday night, appeared to be seeking in the interviews to repair his battered image among Arabs.

Many Arabs were shocked and angry when his claims of imminent victory over invading U.S. forces turned out to be groundless.

“I do not regret anything I did,” Mr. al-Sahhaf said yesterday, insisting he had “many authentic sources” for his outrageous claims.

He hinted strongly in the interviews, which were to be broadcast today, that he had much more to reveal about the real reasons for the rapid collapse of the regime, including infighting or treachery.

“What the public has is only a small part of the picture,” he told an interviewer. “The rest will emerge when I write my book.”

Mr. al-Sahhaf, whose hair has gone completely white in the weeks since his government’s ouster, is said to have been involved in negotiations to leave the country and settle in the United Arab Emirates, which is home to two major Arabic-language satellite channels.

Mr. al-Sahhaf’s friend and colleague, former Ambassador to the United Nations Mohammed al-Douri, already has taken up a position as a television commentator there, and Mr. al-Sahhaf could follow suit.

“I will never leave Baghdad,” he said in one interview yesterday, but given his record for accuracy, the claim was being treated with skepticism.

In most of his answers, Mr. al-Sahhaf was terse. An interviewer, Saad Silawi of Al-Arabiya television, said the former information minister might have been seeking to whet the appetites of publishers and television producers.

Mr. al-Sahhaf appeared on television in daily briefings for the international press in Baghdad before and during the U.S.-led war, trumpeting Iraqi military successes and insulting coalition forces, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

When Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel came under U.S. tank fire April 8, he had to acknowledge that coalition forces were in the capital, but he smiled and suggested it was all part of Iraq’s plan.

“We blocked them inside the city. Their rear is blocked,” he said in hurried remarks that were a departure from his daily news conference.

Mr. al-Sahhaf disappeared April 9, the day Baghdad fell. He is not on the list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqi officials.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide