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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 April, 2003, 07:43 GMT 08:43 UK
Iraqi minister turns web celebrity
Iraqi Information Minister, Muhammed Saeed al-Sahhaf
The Iraqi Information minister has provided entertainment
The notorious Iraqi Information Minister Muhammed Saeed al-Sahhaf may no longer be making his daily TV appearance but his memory lives on.

A website called We Love the Iraqi Information Minister, carrying soundbites about the Iraq war, has become an internet phenomenon.

The website was set up by a group of New York friends, who found that the only thing they could agree on about the war in Iraq was that they liked Mr Sahhaf.

"We would have arguments about the rights and wrongs of the war but we would all make sure we didn't miss the daily press briefing from the information minister," explained Konn Nugent, editor-in-chief of the website.

Compulsive viewing

Mr Sahhaf, dubbed Comical Ali by the media, caused amusement and confusion to journalists and TV audiences across the world for his forthright and often skewed view of the conflict with Iraq.

It was as if a Monty Python character had been parachuted into the lobby of the Palestine Hotel
Konn Nugent, website editor
Classic lines include: "Our initial assessment is that they will all die," delivered at the beginning of the war, and "there are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!", spoken as US troops surrounded the city

All guaranteed his place in history.

"The more we watched, the more appealing we found him," said Mr Nugent.

It soon emerged that many others had found the unique style of the Iraqi information minister appealing too.

Within one hour of the launch of the website, it was getting 1,000 visits per second.

This number grew to 4,000 per second within days of the launch, forcing the team to move to a bigger server to cope with the traffic.

Monty Pythonesque

Picture of Muhammed Saeed al-Sahhaf with backdrop of Waterloo
The site puts Mr Sahhaf in conflicts such as Waterloo
Mr Nugent puts the appeal of the site down to the fact that Mr Sahhaf was such a unique character.

"The culture of war reporting is solemn and sad. Suddenly, as if from another universe, was this man who was reliably unreliable," he said.

"He didn't even try to spin things. He was the most colourful and invective-laden public spokesman.

"It was as if a Monty Python character had been parachuted into the lobby of the Palestine Hotel."

Even staff at the Pentagon were entertained by the daily antics of Mr Sahhaf and his briefings were one of the few things that could make the military leaders in Iraq smile, according to Mr Nugent.

The whereabouts of Mr Sahhaf are not known, although there are rumours that he has fled to Iran.

He is not included on the Death Pack playing cards, detailing Iraq's most wanted, that have been distributed to US forces. Mr Nugent is hopeful he is alive and well.

"It would be sad indeed if he is harmed or subjected to harsh military treatment. He is just too entertaining for that," he said.




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