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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September, 2003, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
'Comical Ali' criticises Saddam
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf
Al-Sahhaf gained cult status for his deluded accounts of the war
Former Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf has said Saddam Hussein made tactical mistakes in fighting the US-led coalition and never considered stepping down to avoid a war.

Mr Sahhaf, who became famous for his unrealistic accounts of Iraqi "victories" during the war, told Abu Dhabi Television nobody was brave enough to suggest to the former dictator he should go into exile.

The former minister reiterated his belief that Iraq had not possessed any weapons of mass destruction since the early 1990s.

The programme was part of a series called "Al-Sahhaf's War", which is due to run four more interviews with Mr Sahhaf.

'Fatal mistakes'

Appearing relaxed, Mr Sahhaf criticised Saddam Hussein's decision to divide Baghdad into four military zones days before the war began in March.

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf in earlier appearance on Abu Dhabi TV
Al-Sahhaf said no one dared suggest Saddam should leave
He said military experts were relegated to secondary positions.

"It was a direct mistake of the president and the leadership," Mr Sahhaf said, adding that it "led to fatal mistakes".

Mr Sahhaf said he prepared his information ministry for the onset of war by switching to mobile radio and television stations which used small antennas, rather than larger ones which made highly visible targets.

He said the technology was downloaded from the internet and developed by an Egyptian scientist.

Officials scared

Mr Sahhaf, who became the public face of Saddam Hussein's regime during its dying days, said Saddam Hussein never contemplated leaving office.

"No-one dared tell him [to leave]," he said.

The programme showed previously unseen footage of the ousted leader in which he is heard to call Arab leaders "agents" for suggesting he go into exile.

The idea, which was backed by Saudi Arabia and some Gulf states, was discussed at a summit in Doha about two weeks before the start of the war.

Mr Sahhaf denied Saddam Hussein possessed banned weapons of mass destruction, which the United States ostensibly went to war to destroy.

"Chemical weapons and missiles were destroyed in the 1991 [Gulf] war," Mr Sahhaf said.

Mr Sahhaf - who was nicknamed Comical Ali for his wildly exaggerated claims about Iraqi successes in the face of defeat - disappeared from public view on 9 April, the day Baghdad fell to coalition forces.

He resurfaced in June when he said he had surrendered to US forces and released after being questioned.

But US forces in Iraq denied the claim, saying they had never questioned Mr Sahhaf.

Mr Sahhaf is not on the US list of 55 most wanted Iraqis.



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