- The following is the transcript of an interview between
CBS News Anchor Dan Rather and Iraq Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. The
interview was conducted Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 20, 2002, via satellite
with Rather in New York and Aziz in Baghdad. Dan Rather: Donald Rumsfeld
has just said in a briefing at American Pentagon that there are definitely
al Qaeda elements operating in side Iraq. Do you know where they are, what
they are doing and if so why are they allowed to operate in Iraq?
- Tariq Aziz: They are operating in Iraq here but in a
location governed by an ally of Mr. Rumsfeld. Which is under the control
of Jallal Yallabani who attended the meeting in Washington and met with
Mr. Rumsfeld. If he was interested in that why didn't he ask Tallabani
about the presence of those people in the area where he is supposed to
be the government.
- Rather: I want to make sure what they are saying. Yes,
there are al Qaeda elements in Iraq but they are in an area controlled
by Kurdish leaders who were meeting in Washington.
- Aziz: Yes that area is in Iraq, the government of Sullemini
the territory of Iraq but it is the control of Jallal Tallabani, it is
not under the control of the government.
- Rather: To your knowledge are there any al Qaeda elements
in the part of Iraq controlled by the part of the country controlled by
- Aziz: No, no not at all, and Jallal Tallabani misled
the Americans, he didn't tell that when he was threatened by those people
he asked for our support and we provided him with ammunition, to fight
him, to fight al Qaeda. Because he's yes, when they attacked his people,
his followers, he asked the government to give him ammunition in order
to face them and we did. Jallal Tallabani did not say that because he joined
the group in Washington to conspire against Iraqi leadership.
- Rather: When did that happen that he and his followers
fought al Qaeda and the government of Saddam Hussein supplied him with
ammunition and other supplies?
- Aziz: Some few months ago.
- Rather: Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, also today an Iraqi
opposition group has taken over the Iraq embassy in Berlin demanding an
end to Saddam Hussein's rule. What is your reaction to that?
- Aziz: Well our reaction to that is the responsibility
of the German authorities to deal with this matter because this is against
the responsibilities of the diplomatic representation and we hope that
the German authorities will take the necessary steps to evacuate the Iraqi
embassy from those people.
- Rather: Mr. Aziz, the U.S. government and the much of
the world believe that Iraq has weapons of massive destruction, chemical,
biological, if not indeed including nuclear and that you have been acquiring
the increasingly the ways to deliver those weapons. Now why shouldn't the
United States invade Iraq and put an end to this threat?
- Aziz: Because those allegations are false, the U.S. government
has not provided any solid information evidence about that. We invited
the American congress to come on a fact finding mission, search the country,
inspect all the sights that the American government says that they are
being used for reproduction of weapons of mass destruction. They declined.
If there is a genuine concern about this matter and the American government
and the American congress and opinion, this matter could be resolved very
quickly and we are ready to provide the information and facilities to reach
the truth. Why did not they accept our invitation if they are sure that
there are such places sights that contain weapons of mass destruction?
This tells you, tells any intelligent person that their accusations are
- Rather: If that's true, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, why
not say to the United States and to United Nations, come take a look, you
can go any place, anytime. You can have unfettered inspections. Why not
do that? > Aziz: The United Nations is different because they're like
the former UNSCOM stayed in Iraq for seven and a half year and did not
report honestly. It dragged its feet inside Iraq and kept the sanctions
in place. So we didn't reach a conclusion, nobody reached a conclusion.
In order to use that conclusion to lift the sanctions imposed on Iraq according
to the script, letter, and spirit of resolution 687, so we do not trust
those people when they come and given the opportunity to inspect and search
they will report the truth, but when there is a fact finding mission by
the American congress, this mission would be limited in period, it won't
be limited in the ways it conducts, but there will be a conclusion when
they return to Washington they will tell you and the American public opinion
we did not find anything. We do not trust that Mr. Blix and his people
are going to tell the truth if we allow them to return to Iraq as you see.
We are in our experience with UNSCOM.
- Rather: Mr. Aziz, now back to the basic question though,
if as you say your government is not hiding any weapons of mass destruction.
Again why not say bring your inspectors that can go any place anytime,
completely unfettered inspection and lay this matter to rest for good?
- Aziz: I made that clear in my previous answer, we did
not trust their impartiality and honesty. They will stay in Iraq, go to
the places whatever place they go, they won't tell the truth, they keep
the doubt about the situation in Iraq, and the sanctions will remain in
place. We would like to get rid of this matter, we would like to reach
a conclusion, why doesn't Congress send a fact-finding mission equipped
with American experts on those areas, equipped with all the instruments
to help them to find the truth. Why don't they do it you see? Because they
don't do it because this way we are suggestion can reach a conclusion.
Can bring about a conclusion. The inspectors you mentioned are not going
to bring about a conclusion. They will keep the situation vague and leave
the sanctions in place. And don't forget that when the inspectors were
in Iraq, America and Britain attacked Iraq. So how could you deal with
the inspections on the one hand and the continuous threat to attack the
country by American troops on the other.
- Rather: Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, do you or your President
expect the United States to invade Iraq?
- Aziz: Well we are hearing the threats and according to
the responsibility towards our nation we are taking those threats very
- Rather: Now Saddam Hussein has said that he is not given
up on averting war. But this what has been described dance, promising cooperation
and then offering limited what you see is virtually meaningless inspection
has been going on a full decade. By any reasonable analysis you and your
country now face a choice. Either allow unfettered full inspection or face
total annihilation. Which it going to be?
- Aziz: Well this in itself contains irony. When there
are threats to invade Iraq to attack Iraq, you send people to collect information
about the Iraqi preparations for the Iraqis defending their own country
there is a contradiction here, and a trick also here. The inspectors were
in Iraq in 1998, they withdrew in the morning, and the American and British
missiles attacked Iraq late in the evening. So they were collecting information
providing information to the aggressors to make their targets more precise.
This, there is a contradiction here. You either follow or respect the United
Nations' rules that you don't commit aggression against a country and then
things will be quite different. And I tell you, are these people honest
and impartial enough to reach the truth, to reach a conclusion of whether
there are weapons of mass destruction of not? We suspect their honesty
and their impartiality.
- When we ask the congress, because the congress is not
going to stay in Iraq and get money from the United Nations for its work.
The congress will come and find the government's allegations are true or
not and they will return >for a certain period and report to the American
government and to the American public opinion what they have seen and what
they have not seen We would like to have a real, interested, impartial,
group of people to verify the facts, not a group of people who live on
the continuation of their work, as UNSCOM experts did for seven and a half
years. It was in their personal interest not to tell the truth. Because
they will continue working, they will continue getting thousands of dollars
as salaries and allowances of their presence in Iraq. This is different
Mr. Rather, this is different. Let the American government, American congress,
create a fact finding mission, with all experts and all fields, and come
to Iraq in arrangement with the Iraqi government. We will give them unfettered
access to each and every place they claim that there are weapons of mass
destruction in it. But when the media is with them, the American media,
the international media is with them, when they go to a site and don't
find anything, then the truth will be known. That's what we want. We want
the truth to be known. We cannot leave it to Mr. Blix and his people to
tell the truth as they want to tell it you see. They won't report. I give
you, I remind you of an example in 1998 when Bill Clinton and Mr. Blair
made allegations about the presidential site. They said that those sites
are full of great quantities of weapons of mass destruction. On those sites
there were factories and equipment producing such weapons. Then we reached
an agreement with the Secretary General of the United Nations. The inspectors
entered all these sites, they inspected each and every corner of it and
they did not report to the Security Council and to the world that they
did not find anything. We are not going to put ourselves in such a foolish
- When people come pretending that they are seeking the
truth, and in the end they do not report the facts as they seem them. We
would like to see a credible group of people who really represent their
own constituencies to come and we will provide them with all the facilities
to reach the truth. And there are equipment in this world, technical equipment
that could trace any, any activity in the biological or the chemical and
nuclear areas. If there is a scientist listening to me now, he will see
yes what Aziz, is saying is correct. You can trace, you can trace by certain
sensors, any activity, even if it took place ten years before in any place,
whether there was an activity or not. But the inspectors who belong to
UNSCOM, and those who are in the new organization are not going to tell
the truth. And we have our experience of 1998, what they did in 1998 is
not telling the truth. They made precise locations, they made by GPS instruments,
they made certain locations, precise, and reported that to the Americans
and when they bombed Iraq in late 1998, they bombed the places where they
thought the locations of the leadership of Iraq were staying. This is not
the way to reach, yes?
- Rather: Let me come directly to point. Does Iraq possess
- Aziz: No. No we do not possess any nuclear, chemical,
or biological weapons. We are not interested in them. My president has
made it clear. We don't have, and we are ready to challenge anybody who
makes allegations contrary to what I am saying. But it should be done in
a perfect manner, not done by the means of UNSCOM and by the means Mr.
Blix is suggesting because they will not report the truth. They will not
reach a conclusion about realities. Let us think if the American government
is genuinely concerned about that let them come and propose any credible
manner to come and inspect and search and then reach the conclusion about
the reality. We are ready to discuss with them, with the American government,
all reliable efficient means to reach the conclusion.
- Rather: Mr. Deputy Minister, you are a skilled diplomat,
an elegant speaker, and a forceful advocate for your government, but no
amount of rhetoric changes the dilemma you face. You have the most powerful
military force in >history, discussing invasion of your country. Are
the Iraqi people aware of the peril they face?
- Aziz: Is the reason behind this invasion the matter of
weapons of mass destruction or the reason behind it is taking over Iraq,
running Iraq for the interest of the United States, the Israeli government,
and the Zionist lobby in the United States. The Iraqi people know that
the American pretext are untrue and they know that America wants to invade
their country in order to occupy it and take over the Iraqi wealth for
its own imperialistic purposes. And for the sake of the Israelis, for Israel,
and now look at the matter, you are also an experienced media man. Who
is supporting the United States in this invasion? If the kind of pretexts
are genuine, America says that Iraq is a threat to the region. It's threat
to the U.S. and the world. Who is saying that except Mr. Bush and his assistants?
Who is saying that except Mr. Sharon and his gang, who are killing the
Palestinians, destroying Palestinian lands, and killing the Palestinian
people? Only two persons, two governments in this globe are creating those
false pretexts. None of America's allies who participated in the war against
Iraq in 1991 are supporting the American pretext. The countries in the
region have made it clear. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Iran, all
these governments all these countries around Iraq have said that we are
against the American plan to attack Iraq, therefore whose purpose President
Bush is planning to attack Iraq. The only one encouraging Mr. Bush to attack
Iraq is Sharon and his gang which are killing the Palestinians, the women,
the children, and destroying the houses, destroying trees, etc. So everybody,
in Iraq and in the region, knows that this plan is a criminal plan, it's
a criminal plan against a sovereign nation, a nation which is proud of
its independence, a nation which cares about its own national interest,
and everybody knows that this is an imperialist game, an imperialist plan
and that's why people are criticizing it.
- (interruption in interview)
- Rather: A member of Saddam Hussein's cabinet has been
quoted in the last 24 to 48 hours as describing President Bush and his
policy toward Iraq as quote "stupid" unquote, is that correct?
- Aziz: Well I don't know, I think many people have read
that in the American media.
- Rather: Well if it is printed in the American press and
mention by the American media, people might think it is correct adjective.
- Rather: Is that your opinion?
- Aziz: I don't know I don't know, the man I do not judge
a person whom I don't know. But my belief, my belief is that his policy
towards Iraq is stupid and it has no justification, it does not serve the
national interest of the United States of America in the long run, it just
serves the imperialist, the Zionist plan of Sharon and his gang and those
who support Sharon and the United States of America
- Rather: Does Saddam Hussein (Aziz interrupts) Does Saddam
Hussein remain committed to the destruction of Israel? He has been in the
past been committed to the destruction of Israel. Is he still committed
- Aziz: We are, we are, we are committed to supporting
the Palestinian legal just struggle for the liberation of the occupied
territory we support the struggle of the Palestinians to create their own
independent state. That's what we're committed to, that's what my president
is committed to.
- Rather: I understand that, the question is whether your
president is committed to the destruction of Israel. That's something different
than creating a Palestinian state.
- Aziz: No there's no difference, what I said is that is
that we are committed. My president and the Iraqi leadership is committed
to support the Palestinians I did not say at anytime, 'We are, we are,
we are seeking the destruction of Israel.' We didn't say that. When did
my president say that? He never said that, but we also, we always said
that we are supporting the Palestinians and the legitimate struggle for
their legitimate objectives. > Rather: It's been widely reported that
international terrorist Abu Nidal was shot to death in a Baghdad apartment.
Is this true, can you confirm that and what else can you tell me about
- Aziz:: Abu Nidal, Abu Nidal committed suicide.
- Rather: Period?
- Aziz: Yes.
- Rather: Any idea why he committed suicide?
- Aziz: Well tomorrow, well tomorrow I hope an Iraqi official
who knows all the details about this matter will appear in front of the
press and tell the press what he knows about this matter.
- Rather: True or untrue that he was at least suspected
of plotting some kind of assassination attempt against Saddam Hussein?
- Aziz: No, no, I uh, to my knowledge there was no such
attempt but Abu Nidal was violating the Iraqi national interests.
- Rather: How was he doing that?
- Aziz: By doing things that the official who is going
to be appearing in the press tomorrow will explain that to the public opinion
here and outside Iraq.
- Rather: But that will be tomorrow, as you know I am in
the news business and I'm looking to make news and was hoping you could
give me a preview of what he might say.
- Aziz: Well if I knew all the details, Mr. Rather, I would
have said that. You see, you know I am frank person and I do not cover
my information but I don't know all of the details. The man, the official
who is in charge of this file will appear in front of the press and tell
all of the facts about what he was doing. I know as a member of the leadership
that he was violating the Iraqi national security. I know that for sure.
But when you ask me about the details, I cannot tell you any details. The
man whose, who knows those details is going to tell the public opinion
and the press about that.
- Rather: The U.S. government [claims] that Abu Nidal was
responsible for the killing of some 900 people over a 20 year period. How
could the Iraqi government justify giving sanctuary to such a man in the
- Aziz: We did not give him sanctuary, he entered Iraq
illegally, and, uh, an official is going to explain that, as I said. He
entered Iraq secretly without the permission of the Iraq authorities. We
extradited Abu Nidal in 1983. I informed him I was then the foreign minister
of Iraq and I invited him to my office and told him that you are doing
things contrary to the policy of the government of Iraq and we have decided
to expel you outside Iraq and he left Iraq in 1983. Then entered Iraq secretly
from a neighboring country which is to my knowledge Iran.
- Rather: You've been very patient with us, in uh, especially
with your time, and I appreciate it. Is there anyone in Iraq able to lead
your country when Saddam Hussein is removed from power and what in your
judgment would happen in Iraq should your president be removed from power?
- Aziz: Saddam Hussein is the leader of Iraq by the choice
of the Iraqi people and now we are planning another round of elections
next October because his presidency will expire. And in October and the
Iraqi people are ready to reelect him as their leader so he will stay as
long as Allah decides, Allah wants and as long as the Iraqi people want
him to be their leader
- Rather: Mr. Deputy Minister I can recall in 1990, 1991
you and I had some conversations, this was before the United States defeated
Iraq. It was very clear then that you had underestimated both the United
States military might and the will of the United States to do what it felt
it had to do. What are the chances that you are again underestimating these
- Aziz: We are not, we are not underestimating the American
military power, but uh, we know we are staying in our county and are fighting
inside our territory, we are defending our independence, we are defending
our integrity we are defending our national interest and any aggressor
cannot win a war against us.
- Rather: Well, what you call the aggressor, at the time
the United States, won the war in the 1990-91 period.
- Aziz: That was Kuwait. It was not Iraq. And there is
a difference between Kuwait and Iraq. > Rather:: Mr. Deputy Minister,
is your family in Baghdad and have you made any provisions for war?
- Aziz: Well my family was in Baghdad in 1991 and they
will stay in Baghdad when the aggression occurs. We are deep rooted in
our territory and in our in our home land and we will fight courageously
and intelligently against any aggression -- every Iraqi, child and old
man, and the young man. Woman and man we will defend Iraq perfectly, and
the American government will be surprised how efficient how courageous
our reaction to their aggression will be.
- Rather: Mr. Aziz, you are very well educated and consider
yourself a civilized man. How can you justify your government encouraging
young people to blow themselves up killing innocent civilians? The Iraqi
government pays money to suicide bombers. I'd be interested to know how
you can justify that.
- Aziz: These are heroes who are struggling to liberate
the occupied territory, we respect them. We respect them because they are
sacrificing their lives for a noble cause, they are not terrorist, they
are heroes and heroines. And this is what we believe in -- it's not only
myself. Every educated honest person in the Arab world, in the Muslim world,
believes that these people are heroes and that they are freedom fighters.
So we respect them and if we have any possibility to support their families
we will do it. And we are doing it happily with the great conviction that
we are what we are doing is correct and according the noble human values.
The terrorists are the Israeli government, the killers the murderers are
the Israeli government. The persons who are killing people in Israel are
soldiers. Under the instructions of their leadership, their government,
their generals, there the criminals who should be blamed, not those people
who are sacrificing their lives for a noble cause.
- Rather: Mr. Deputy Minister, you are privy to the thinking
of your president, is it or is it not the opinion of Saddam Hussein that
this President Bush has in mind invading Iraq to finish, what he believes
his father didn't finish, in the 1990-91 war, is that your president's
- Aziz: Well I will, I will speak on my opinion in that.
I believe, that Bush the father is wiser, is more wise than his son. what
Bush the father did in 1991 was in the interest of America. What his son
is doing now or planning to do now, is in the interest of Israel snd the
Zionists, it's not in the interests of Americans. If he listens, if he
reads the well, if he studies well what his father did in 1991, he will
reach the conclusion that it was serving the interests of the United States.
- Rather: You say that being fully aware many Americans,
I venture to say a majority of Americans believe it was a mistake by President
Bush One not to go Baghdad, and at least force Saddam Hussein out of power.
- Aziz: Could he do that? Could he do that? At that time?
His son is now planning to do it. Let him try and he will find in the end
that he will lose this plan, that he will lose this endeavor.
- Rather: Mr. Deputy Minister you have been very patient
with us, I am going to give you an opportunity here in the end to tell
me what is the most important thing you have to say today about the possibility
of war on Iraqi soil?
- Aziz: Well I would like to say that this war which the
Bush government is a planning does not serve the basic interest in the
long run of the American nation. It serves the imperialistic interest of
Israel and the Zionist groups who have now a great say in the American
- >Rather: Mr. Deputy Minister, thank you.