BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK Politics
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Thursday, 4 January, 2001, 18:04 GMT
Doubt cast over Saddam images
Saddam Hussein chairing a cabinet meeting
Official Iraqi photo of the cabinet meeting
A foreign office minister has cast doubt on Iraqi attempts to demonstrate President Saddam Hussein is working normally following reports he is seriously ill.

However, John Battle said the UK had no "inside information" confirming speculation the 63-year-old was in intensive care after suffering a severe stroke.

An Iraqi opposition group based in Syria first suggested the president had been taken ill after attending a military parade on Sunday.

The regime has got a reputation for manipulating TV images

John Battle
The Iraqi information ministry described the reports as "stupid".

State television later showed footage of the Iraqi leader, apparently fit and well, chairing a cabinet meeting.

Mr Battle told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are aware that there are media reports around that Saddam Hussein has suffered a heart attack or stroke but we have no inside information at all confirming these reports.

"The regime has got a reputation for manipulating TV images, as we have seen before, and it's in the nature of this closed regime that the information to confirm or otherwise is not available."

Cancelled engagements

However, he went on, there was reported "circumstantial evidence" including cancelled engagements and previous pictures of Saddam Hussein looking unwell.

UK-based Iraqi dissident Dr Mowaffak Al'Rubaie said he is convinced the cabinet meeting footage is faked.

Dr Al'Rubaie, who left Iraq when Saddam Hussein came to power in 1979, said there were several peculiarities which suggested the pictures were not genuine.

"I've recorded many hours of this kind of footage from Iraqi satellite TV and I'm sure this was shown before, at least two weeks ago.

Earlier broadcast

"I noticed certain things like the way Saddam moves and turns around to look at a guard at one point. He does the exact same thing in an earlier broadcast."

The doctor also said it was strange that the meeting was supposed to have taken place on Wednesday - they were normally held on Saturdays.

It was also "well known" that the president has doubles who can make appearances for him, Dr Al'Rubaie added.

In his same interview on Today, Mr Battle defended the policy of UN sanctions and UK-US airstrikes against Iraq.

John Battle
John Battle: 'Iraq would be better off without Saddam Hussein'

The aim was not to unseat Saddam Hussein, Mr Battle insisted, but encourage compliance with United Nations Security Council resolution 1284 providing for the resumption of weapons inspections.

"There's one way forward for a positive future for Iraq and it depends upon that UN resolution being accepted by the Iraqi regime."

But the government's stance has come under fire from a former UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq, Graf Hans von Sponeck

In an open letter published in The Guardian newspaper, he attacks resolution 1284 as a "still born creation" for which Iraqis "pay dearly, and daily".

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

03 Jan 01 | Middle East
Iraq denies Saddam stroke
01 Jan 01 | Americas
Bush faces Iraq dilemma
17 Dec 00 | Middle East
Iraq dismisses Powell's threats
04 Sep 00 | Middle East
Saddam 'stricken with lymph cancer'
24 Jan 99 | Middle East
Saddam Hussein: His rise to power
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK Politics stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK Politics stories