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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 13:59 GMT
Dan Rather: America's news anchor
Dan Rather in 2000
Rather's interview is the envy of rival networks
Veteran broadcaster Dan Rather's exclusive interview with Saddam Hussein is the latest in a long line of scoops for a journalist who has become a national institution.

Rather has put his latest scoop down to "hard work and good luck".

The lead anchor of CBS Evening News obtained the Iraqi leader's first interview with an American television journalist in 12 years.

Rather's coup is the biggest TV news interview of the year in the US and the one all the rival networks had been after. The award-winning 71-year-old presenter is a national institution in the US, with a journalistic career stretching back more than half a century.

His interview was approved in Baghdad on Monday, and took place after Rather and a colleague spent two hours in security checks.

The first excerpts are being shown on Tuesday, with the full interview going out on Wednesday on CBS's 60 Minutes II.

During the interview, Saddam suggests he may not fulfil a UN demand to destroy its medium-range al-Samoud II missiles.

He also challenges President Bush to a live TV debate on the differences between the two nations.

Rather, praising two colleagues for their part in securing the interview, said: "It was a lot of hard work, some team play and, yes, some luck."

Dan Rather in 1990
Rather has reported on the world's major conflicts
He added: "We made a point of saying to him that we keep our word.

"We do what we say we will do and won't do what we say we won't do. They came out of that with the experience that we are who we say we are."

CBS acknowledged that Rather's access was aided by former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark.

Mr Clark is prominent in the global anti-war movement and had met with Saddam on Sunday.

Rather suggested that his previous face-to-face interview with Saddam in 1990 had also helped him to secure the conversation.

He said he did not expect criticism for talking to a leader perceived to be a fierce enemy of the US.

"I'm a reporter," he said. "What reporters do is try to talk to everybody on all sides of the story. I don't know any journalist who wouldn't take this interview."

Rather has handled some of the biggest stories of recent years during his CBS career which began in 1962.

Former US president Richard Nixon
In the 1970s, Rather reported on the fall of Nixon
He has reported on most major world events of the post-war years, from the assassination of president John F Kennedy in November 1963 to the 11 September terrorist attacks.

Last year, Rather said US press freedom was being undermined by a wave of patriotism which swept the US following the 11 September attacks.

He said that fear of offending the politicians "keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions".

Rather also covered many of the 20th century's biggest conflicts, from Vietnam to the Gulf and the Balkans, as well as the quest for peace in South Africa and the Middle East.

He has interviewed US presidents from the time of Eisenhower, and many major international leaders of the past 40 years.

A former CBS bureau chief in London and Saigon, Rather was White House correspondent during the Watergate scandal and fall of President Nixon.

From the UK, he headed CBS coverage of Princess Diana's funeral and the 50th anniversary of VE Day.

Born in October 1931 in Wharton, Texas, he has won a string of honours for his broadcasts, including Emmys.

Famed for his incisive, studied delivery and prosaic style, he once said: "A tough lesson in life that one has to learn is that not everybody wishes you well."



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