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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 12:05 GMT 13:05 UK
Iraqi defector warns against invasion
Iraqi soldiers
Khazraji: The army is best placed to lead a revolt
One of Iraq's most senior defectors has told the BBC that an American-led invasion would spell a "very dark future for all".

General Nizar al-Khazraji, who led the army during the Gulf War, said the Iraqi people would gladly overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime themselves but feared a foreign intervention would make things "even worse".


If the Iraqi people will believe... things will change after the fall of Saddam Hussein, then they are going to do it

General Nizar al-Khazraji
For a rebellion to succeed, he said, the West needed to give clear assurances that a post-Saddam Iraq would be democratic while retaining its independence and territorial integrity.

A top official in the Bush administration said in an interview published on Monday that Washington and its allies were committed to rebuilding Iraq and saw their mission as that of "liberators".

General Khazraji said the international community should focus on "moral and diplomatic" support for ordinary Iraqis, rather than military help.

He offered his own services to lead any Iraqi rebellion against Saddam although appeared to rule out a political role for himself.

'Wrong signals'

General Khazraji said he saw it as his duty to overthrow Saddam and establish civilian government.

Speaking at his home in Denmark, the general said that he had warned the Iraqi leader to no effect during the Gulf War that he stood to lose not only Kuwait, but Iraq itself.

"This guy has to be gone," he said. "All real Iraqis want to overthrow this regime and I am one of them."

Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein has ruled Iraq with an iron grip since 1979
The former commander said Iraq's armed forces remained the best hope of bringing down Saddam and he was willing to lead a rebel army into the country.

Iraqis, he said, would gladly oust Saddam but they were receiving "mixed" signals from the international community and needed guarantees.

"I'm sure if the armed forces, if the people inside Iraq believe that the West will help the Iraqis in lifting the sanctions, promising too to help the Iraqis in the future, to keep the country unified, to keep Iraq independent - that will encourage us to overthrow the regime."

General Khazraji, tipped by some as a potential leader like Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, ruled out a post-conflict political role for himself, saying he was, and remained, a "military man".

Troubled figure

The general defected in 1995 and is now living under police protection in Denmark.

He is being investigated for possible involvement in war crimes against Iraqi Kurds and Iranians in the 1980s when he was Iraqi chief of staff.

Asked by the BBC about the allegations against him, he dismissed them as black propaganda spread by the regime in Baghdad to discredit him.

Iraqi Kurds living in Denmark are pressing the authorities to deny General Khazraji the right of asylum on the grounds of his alleged crimes.

'Liberators'

US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has repeated US warnings that America will act itself if the United Nations fails to confront the Iraqi regime, accused by Washington of developing weapons of mass destruction.


The United States would want to be thought of as liberators

Condoleezza Rice
"If the Security Council cannot come to terms with strong action, the United States, with whomever else would like to join us, will have to take care of the problem," Ms Rice told the Financial Times newspaper.

She said that America and its allies wished to be seen as "liberators" promoting "democratisation or the march of freedom in the Muslim world".

Ms Rice added: "We would expect it to be an Iraq that is at least on the road to democratic development, that was unified, that maintained its territorial integrity, that had a broad-based governmental structure that allowed the various ethnic groups in Iraq to be fairly represented."


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23 Sep 02 | Middle East
15 Jul 02 | Middle East
22 Sep 02 | Middle East
20 Sep 02 | Americas
20 Sep 02 | Americas
20 Sep 02 | Hardtalk
20 Sep 02 | Middle East
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