Dan Rather interviews Saddam

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

— Saddam Hussein indicated on Monday that he does not intend to follow U.N. orders to destroy his Al-Samoud 2 missiles, and he challenged President Bush to an internationally televised debate via satellite linkup.

In a three-hour interview with CBS anchor Dan Rather, the Iraqi leader said he envisioned a live debate with Bush along the lines of those in a U.S. presidential campaign.

Rather reported on the interview Monday during the evening newscast. CBS said it planned to broadcast excerpts today and the entire interview on Wednesday.

Regarding chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix's order that Iraq destroy its Al-Samoud 2 missiles, Rather quoted Saddam as saying: "Iraq is allowed to prepare proper missiles and we are committed to that." Asked whether the Al-Samoud 2 missiles are "proper," Saddam was quoted as replying: "We do not have missiles that go beyond the prescribed range.

Earlier this month, Saddam gave his first Western television interview in more than a decade, speaking with a retired British lawmaker and peace activist, Tony Benn.

Saddam gave several interviews during the Gulf War in early 1991. In one famous encounter, he spoke with Peter Arnett, CNN's correspondent in Iraq. Arnett quoted Saddam as saying he could not predict how long the war would last but promised "lots of blood will be shed on every side" and said he was confident Iraq would prevail. Iraq was routed in that war, which started after it invaded neighboring Kuwait.