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EDITIONS
Saturday, 19 October, 2002, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Can war with Iraq be avoided? Ask a leading Iraqi MP

  Click here to listen to the programme.

  • Click here to read the transcript


    As the United States steps up its war plans, Iraq is already fighting on all fronts, a presidential referendum, a campaign to win over Arabs and other "friends" and a rearguard action at the United Nations.

    Domestically, Iraq has mobilised to ensure the absolute success of a vote to give President Saddam Hussein a new seven-year term of office.

    The government wants to send a clear message to President George W. Bush, who wishes to overthrow the regime, to demonstrate the nation's total support for Saddam.

    We discussed Iraq in our phone-in programme, Talking Point, on Thursday 17th October. Our guest was Dr Mohammad Murafa al-Adhmi, a prominent MP in the Iraqi government and a long time ally of Saddam Hussein.


    Transcript


    Roger Hearing:

    Welcome to Talking Point from Baghdad. I'm Roger Hearing and I'm in the Ministry of Information building here in the Iraqi capital.

    It was from here that the world media covered Saddam Hussein's victory in a referendum when, as expected, he won a vote in which he was the only candidate. Officials here said he received 100% of the vote. A signal perhaps to the rest of the world about the power that he has over the Iraqi people.

    My guest this week here in Baghdad is Dr Mohammed Murafa al-Adhmi, who is a prominent member of parliament here in Iraq and a long-time ally of Saddam Hussein.

    We'll take our first caller in a moment. But first, Dr. al-Adhmi, this 100% figure, a lot of people are going to find it hard to take seriously. Why should we take it seriously?


    Dr Mohammed Murafa al-Adhmi:

    This is an exceptional referendum. The first one which was held in 1995, the circumstances were different. According to the constitution we have to have this referendum every seven years. But because of the threat of the Americans and the British Government to launch an aggression against Iraq, the Iraqis found it very important on this occasion to express that they are against any aggression, they will resist any aggression - the result became 100%. You saw yourself and others that everybody ticked yes for President Saddam.


    Roger Hearing:

    Let's come to our first caller now. Syed Shah Omer, in Riyadh. Syed Shah Omer, what do you think about this?


    Syed Shah Omer:

    The world is looking to Saddam Hussein and President Bush to see that the coming war is avoided. It is our duty to avoid this war. Dr Mohammed, I would like you a question: Is President Saddam Hussein really serious this time to co-operate with the UN Inspectors and make the point that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction?


    Dr Mohammed Murafa al-Adhmi:

    Yes, I think many initiatives were made before the decision of Iraq to re-admit the inspection teams.

    We are serious - the Iraqi government is serious. We want to solve our problem which is sanctions. We want sanctions to be lifted. So we are trying our best to have the sanctions lifted and to avoid the aggression, to avoid the war.

    That's why the Iraqi government and the parliament as well tried several times to call for the British Government and the American Government and Congress to send any people - any expert - to come here and check because we don't have an weapons of mass destruction. They know that very well.

    So that's why now, after all these initiatives, we announced and we sent letters to the United Nations saying we are ready to give free access to the inspection teams. There will be full co-operation with them. We are ready to co-operate with them. Everybody will co-operate with them. They will be allowed to enter even the presidential sites. This is the way that we want to avoid the aggression. We don't want to give any pretext to the others to launch an aggression against Iraq because we don't like that.


    Roger Hearing:

    But Dr Mohammed, a point of clarification here. If the rules are changed and if there is a much more stringent UN resolution about the inspection, would Iraq still accept that?


    Dr Mohammed Murafa al-Adhmi:

    Well, it seems to me because I heard that the vice-president of Iraq announced that when this resolution will be revealed, we will deal with it at that moment. We don't know what will happen because there is a clash between, I think, the Americans and the French about that.


    Roger Hearing:

    So you'll wait and see?


    Dr Mohammed Murafa al-Adhmi:

    Everybody is refusing the project of the Americans which insists on launching war against Iraq.


    Roger Hearing:

    Nils Van der Heyde in on the line from Hamburg: Nils, what do you think about this?


    Nils Van der Heyde:

    Good evening. My question is: If your President, Saddam Hussein, and his government has no weapons of mass destruction - in other words he is as innocent as he always tries to tell the world - why then to avoid war, doesn't he travel to the United Nations building in New York and tell his message from that forum? I am sure your president will get all the necessary immunity he would long for.


    Roger Hearing:

    So Dr Mohammed, why doesn't your president, Saddam Hussein, go to the United Nations and make his case there?


    Dr Mohammed Murafa al-Adhmi:

    Yes, well actually he went there through his minister of foreign affairs, through other representatives. The minister of foreign affairs read the letter of President Saddam Hussein.

    It's very clear, President Saddam Hussein, and the Iraqi government are trying to avoid the war. We don't like war. We don't want this war. At the same time, we have to get ready to defend ourselves.

    So we don't have weapons of mass destruction. Everybody knows that. Since 1991 weapons of mass destruction were destroyed by the inspection teams. Everybody knows very well that we don't weapons of mass destruction.

    We think that's why the Americans put obstacles in the way of inspection teams to enter Iraq now. They know very well there are no weapons of mass destruction.


    Roger Hearing:

    Let me put that back to Nils. Are you convinced by that Nils?


    Nils Van der Heyde:

    Not at all. But I have a second question. What does your president think about the state of Israel? Would he recognise Israel as a sovereign state if Israel and the Palestinian people would come to a peace agreement?


    Dr Mohammed Murafa al-Adhmi:

    There will be no peace agreement as long as the Israelis are occupying Palestinian land. We believe this land is for the Palestinians and the Israelis are foreigners and they are occupying the Arab land - the Palestinian land. Palestine for the Iraqi government, for the Iraqi people, for Arab nations is a very central and important question.

    So they have been fighting for a long time because of this. Nobody could reach peace with the Israelis because they are trying to occupy more and more land - Palestinian and Arab land.


    Roger Hearing:

    Dr al-Adhmi, let me read you one of the e-mails that we've received from Chris Cutrone, Austin Texas USA: Why does your leader continue to defy the UN as many times as he has and what does he think he can gain from it? How do you think an election with only one person on the ballot is even remotely legitimate or fair to the people?


    Dr Mohammed Murafa al-Adhmi:

    Maybe it seems something different for the western people because this is a different style. For our tradition, from our customs, the leader plays a very important role in the history of Iraq and we've got many leaders in our history.

    Now this referendum is based on Islamic principles which calls for allegiance - the announcement of loyalty to the leader.


    Roger Hearing:

    So it's not a referendum really - you say it's an announcement of allegiance.


    Dr Mohammed Murafa al-Adhmi:

    Yes, but we are practising now in a modern style. We did have that in the Islamic era - the khalifa - the allegiance there will be by his followers and then by the people in general. By raising hands, by gathering and so on. Now we are practising it in a modern style which is familiar here in the Arab world. They practised it in Syria in the same way, in Egypt, in Yemen.


    Roger Hearing:

    But in certain countries, like Jordan for example, they do have elections in which there are many candidates - at least for the posts within the parliament.


    Dr Mohammed Murafa al-Adhmi:

    This is a kingdom.


    Roger Hearing:

    So it's only for the leader?


    Dr Mohammed Murafa al-Adhmi:

    Jordan is a kingdom but if we go to the elections of parliament that will be different. Now we have presidential elections. So this is a custom - a tradition - which is different than that of the American style or the European style or the western style. There is no competition actually.


    Roger Hearing:

    Let's move on to a different point, Dr al-Adhmi. James who e-mails us from Grenoble in France says: With respect, the likelihood of Iraq being able to repel a US led attack on your country is extremely slim. Would it not therefore be in the longer-term interests of Saddam Hussein, and indeed Iraq, to offer total, unconditional access - including access to all presidential sites - to the UN weapons inspectors?


    Dr Mohammed Murafa al-Adhmi:

    That's what Iraq did and that's what Iraq announced. The inspection teams will be given free access.


    Roger Hearing:

    Even to the presidential sites?


    Dr Mohammed Murafa al-Adhmi:

    Yes, that's what we announced.


    Roger Hearing:

    At any time?


    Dr Mohammed Murafa al-Adhmi:

    That's what was announced by the vice-president and also by the letter which was sent to Blix [Hans Blix] and to the Security Council. Two letters were sent; one is in answer to the Blix letter and the other, which was an initiative by the Iraqi government, it was sent there. Iraq said, we will give free access to everybody, to any inspection teams to go everywhere in Iraq. This is not new for us.


    Roger Hearing:

    But last time there was a problem over the presidential site. Are you saying this time they could go to the presidential sites whenever they wanted?


    Dr Mohammed Murafa al-Adhmi:

    Yes. That's what happened the last time in 1998 - they were given free access. They went everywhere through the presidential sites - and Kofi Annan came here, that was in 1998. But after all what happened? The inspections teams withdrew by their own decision and there rose an aggression against Iraq - for days bombing Iraq for no reason.


    Roger Hearing:

    They said it was because there was no co-operation with the UN arms inspectors.


    Dr Mohammed Murafa al-Adhmi:

    No, no, no - because they wanted to attack. Because there was full co-operation. Everybody knows that - the media came here.

    They tried to create a crisis here but they couldn't when Iraq said, let them go everywhere - anywhere. So that's what happened. But after that they bombed us.

    Do you know that during the work of the inspection teams, four times they bombed Baghdad and Iraq - the Americans themselves. For reasons actually created by some members of the inspection teams who after all announced that some of them were spies, some of them were co-operating with Israel, with the United States and so on.


    Roger Hearing:

    Let's move on now. Let's take a call from Pieter, Washington DC, USA: Pieter what's your point?


    Pieter:

    As you may or may not know there are many Americans who are genuinely concerned for the plight of the Iraqi people. If it became clear that a military conflict was inevitable, would the leaders of Iraq contemplate stepping down if this meant sparing the Iraqi people of a potentially bloody and economically certainly devastating conflict?

    In my view, the only way that the Iraqi people can hope to govern themselves is by avoiding this military confrontation.


    Dr Mohammed Murafa al-Adhmi:

    We are trying our best to avoid this confrontation because we know very well that the Americans will send their aeroplanes and they will bomb us. This is not for us. Even now, every day, there is aggression, there is bombing in the north and in the south.

    But what we are trying to do is to avoid this. But at the same time nobody will accept that announcement which says that there will be an American high commissioner in Iraq controlling a government which will be installed by the Americans or by the West. This is unacceptable to the Iraqis.

    This country has fought the British several times because of that. There was a British high commissioner in Iraq in 1920 and the British were here and there were British men who died. But when the Iraqis found that the British didn't give them their independence there was a revolution - there was fighting. And after all they were admitted to the League of Nations.


    Roger Hearing:

    I think Pieter's point is that, if know that there may be a US attack around the corner, would it not be a good moment perhaps for Iraqi's leadership - because America has been talking about regime change - to step down just as a way of avoiding conflict?


    Dr Mohammed Murafa al-Adhmi:

    I don't think the Iraqis will accept that. If they accept that they wouldn't vote yes - 100% they voted yes for President Saddam Hussein. Nobody will accept that.

    Any nation if put in this critical situation, they will refuse this - they will defend their country. We are ready to defend our country. We have to fight if they are going to come because this is unfair because there is no reason except that they want to control our oil and to support the Israelis.


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