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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 April, 2003, 18:39 GMT 19:39 UK
Saddam's mouthpiece 'seeks surrender'
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf
Sahhaf: Became a cult figure in the West

Former Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf is attempting to surrender to US forces, according to a London-based Arabic newspaper.

But Al-Sharq al-Awsat says the Americans have refused to arrest Mr Sahhaf - who became a familiar face during the war with his upbeat assessments of Iraqi military "successes" - because he does not appear on their "most wanted" list of 55 former regime officials.

An Iraqi Kurdish official told the newspaper that Mr Sahhaf was staying at his aunt's house in Baghdad, and was under surveillance by US forces.

He said the former minister was still trying to negotiate his arrest, fearing for his safety in the Iraqi capital.

He's my man, he was great
President Bush on Mr Sahhaf

Mr Sahhaf's daily press briefings in Baghdad during the war, at which his statements were increasingly at odds with reality, made him a cult figure in the West.

He was dubbed "Saddam's optimist" and "Comical Ali" by media commentators.

A website called We Love the Iraqi Information Minister, carrying his soundbites, has become an internet phenomenon after being set up by a group of New York friends.

Mr Sahhaf disappeared after American forces entered central Baghdad, but not before insisting: "They are going to surrender or be burned in their tanks."


US President George W Bush has admitted that he enjoyed Mr Sahhaf's briefings so much that he used to interrupt some of his meetings just to watch him.

"He's my man, he was great," he told NBC television in a recent interview. "Somebody accused us of hiring him and putting him there. He was a classic."

Despite being the regime's mouthpiece, Mr Sahhaf is not considered to have been one of Saddam Hussein's closest allies.

A Shia Muslim, he was an outsider in the Sunni-dominated government that was in power since 1968.

He was one of the few senior Iraqi officials not to come from the area around Saddam Hussein's home town, Tikrit.

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