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FBI Saddam interviews released

Saddam Hussein appearing in north-eastern Baghdad, 21 April 1998
Saddam Hussein says he never used body doubles for public appearances

US investigators have released accounts of the questioning of Saddam Hussein, offering a goldmine of historical and personal details on the Iraqi leader.

The documents released under freedom of information rules are from interviews and informal conversations he had in US custody with the FBI in early 2004.

Saddam Hussein said he refused to allow UN weapons inspectors into Iraq to stop Iran knowing how weak it had become.

And he scoffed at reports that he used body doubles to confuse assassins.

The former Iraqi leader was interviewed by Arabic-speaking FBI agent George Piro after his capture nine months after the US-led invasion of Iraq.

In [Saddam Hussein's] opinion, UN inspectors would have directly identified to the Iranians where to inflict maximum damage to Iraq
FBI document

He was later tried by an Iraqi special tribunal, found guilty of crimes against humanity and hanged in December 2006.

Among the fascinating personal detail contained in the accounts, the imprisoned former leader says he only remembered making two phone calls after March 1990 and changed his location every day.

He also revealed that the farm in northern Iraq where he was captured in December 2003, was the same place where he had found refuge after taking part in a failed coup attempt in 1959.

He expresses a love of the famous southern Iraqi marshes, which he says he had drained for strategic reasons as well as to save the inhabitants from insanitary conditions during the summer.

Iranian threat

Saddam Hussein is identified as High Value Detainee #1 in the documents. These recount interviews between February and June 2004 at in his detention cell at Baghdad International Airport, which formerly bore his name.

He laughed and stated, 'This is movie magic not reality'
Saddam Hussein, on body doubles

The former leader appears to view Iran as the biggest threat to Iraq, which was why he says he kept UN inspectors out in the late 1990s, even though he had already got rid of all his weapons of mass destruction.

He preferred to risk American anger, he said, than to let Iran know how weak Iraq had become.

"In his opinion, the UN inspectors would have directly identified to the Iranians where to inflict maximum damage to Iraq," one document says.

Saddam Hussein said he allowed the inspectors in later, in the hope of heading off the invasion in 2003, but by then it was too late because the US had already made up its mind to attack.

He admitted it was a mistake not to have allowed the UN to document Iraq's destruction of its weapons of mass destruction, which he said had been completed by 1998.

That process, he said, had left Iraq weakened, while Iran was free to develop its armaments.

Denial

Saddam Hussein denied US suggestions that he was linked with al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, who he calls a "zealot".

Saddam Hussein on 1 July 2004
Interviews were before Saddam first appeared in court on 1 July 2004

Separately he cites North Korea as his most likely ally in a crunch, according to the documents.

He takes personal responsibility for ordering the launching of Scud missiles against Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, blaming Israel and its influence on the US for "all the problems of the Arabs".

And he lists among his achievements development of Iraq from a very low base and survival through the devastating eight-year war with Iran and 12 years of UN sanctions.

When asked whether he had ever used "doubles" as discussed in books and other publications, "he laughed and stated, 'This is movie magic not reality'."

The documents have been made public by the National Security Archive, a non-governmental research institute.

An accompanying NSA commentary says there is no new information about Iraq's complicated relationship with the US, such as Washington's covert backing for his regime until the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.



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