While interviewing Saddam Hussein, veteran peace activist Tony Benn
asked whether the Iraqi conflict was primarily about oil reserves?
| Tony Benn: There are people who believe this present conflict is about
oil, and I wonder if you say something about how you see the enormous
oil reserves of Iraq being developed, first for the benefit of the
people of Iraq and secondly for the needs of mankind.
Saddam Hussein: When we speak about oil in this part of the world - we
are an integral part of the world - we have to deal with others in all
aspects of life, economic as well as social, technical, scientific and
It seems that the authorities in the US are motivated by aggression
that has been evident for more than a decade against the region.
The first factor is the role of those influential people in the
decision taken by the President of the US based on sympathy with the
Zionist entity that was created at the expense of Palestine and its
people and their humanity.
These people force the hand of the American administration by claiming
that the Arabs pose a danger to Israel, without remembering their
obligation to God and how the Palestinian people were driven out of
The consecutive American administrations were led down a path of
hostility against the people of this region, including our own nation
and we are part of it.
Those people and others have been telling the various US
administrations, especially the current one, that if you want to
control the world you need to control the oil.
Therefore the destruction of Iraq is a pre-requisite to controlling
That means the destruction of the Iraqi national identity, since the
Iraqis are committed to their principles and rights according to
international law and the UN charter.
It seems that this argument has appealed to some US administrations
especially the current one that if they control the oil in the Middle
East, they would be able to control the world.
They could dictate to China the size of its economic growth and
interfere in its education system and could do the same to Germany and
France and perhaps to Russia and Japan.
They might even tell the same to Britain if its oil doesn't satisfy
its domestic consumption.
It seems to me that this hostility is a trademark of the current US
administration and is based on its wish to control the world and
spread its hegemony.
People have the right to say that if this aggression by the American
administration continues, it would lead to widespread enmity and
We won't be able to develop the oil fields or the oil industry and
therefore create worldwide co-operation as members of the human family
when there is war, destruction and death.
Isn't it reasonable to question this approach and conclude that this
road will not benefit anyone including America or its people?
It may serve some short-term interests or the interests of some
influential powers in the US but we can't claim that it serves the
interest of the American people in the long run or other nations.
During his interview with Tony Benn in Baghdad, Saddam Hussein
has denied that Iraq has any banned weapons.
Tony Benn: Mr President, may I ask you some questions. The first is,
does Iraq have any weapons of mass destruction?
Saddam Hussein: Most Iraqi officials have been in power for over 34
years and have experience of dealing with the outside world.
Every fair-minded person knows that when Iraqi officials say
something, they are trustworthy.
A few minutes ago when you asked me if I wanted to look at the
questions beforehand I told you I didn't feel the need so that we
don't waste time, and I gave you the freedom to ask me any question
directly so that my reply would be direct.
This is an opportunity to reach the British people and the forces of
peace in the world.
There is only one truth and therefore I tell you as I have said on
many occasions before that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction
We challenge anyone who claims that we have to bring forward any
evidence and present it to public opinion.
During his interview with Saddam Hussein, Tony Benn asked the Iraqi
leader about reported difficulties with UN weapons inspectors:
| Tony Benn: In relation to the inspectors, there appears to be
difficulties with inspectors, and I wonder whether there's anything
you can tell me about these difficulties and whether you believe they
will be cleared up before Mr Hans Blix and Mr el-Baradei come back to
Saddam Hussein: You are aware that every major event
must encounter some difficulty.
On the subject of the inspectors and the resolutions that deal with
Iraq you must have been following it and you must have a view and a
vision as to whether these resolutions have any basis in international
Nevertheless the Security Council produced them. These resolutions -
implemented or not - or the motivation behind these resolutions could
lead the current situation to the path of peace or war. Therefore it's
a critical situation.
Let us also remember the unjust suffering of the Iraqi people.
For the last 13 years since the blockade was imposed, you must be
aware of the amount of harm that it has caused the Iraqi people,
particularly the children and the elderly as a result of the shortage
of food and medicine and other aspects of their life.
Therefore we are facing a critical situation. On that basis, it is not
surprising that there might be complaints relating to the small
details of the inspection which may be essential issues as far as we
are concerned and the way we see the whole thing.
It is possible that those Iraqis who are involved with the inspection
might complain about the conduct of the inspectors and they complain
It is also possible that some inspectors either for reasons of
practical and detailed procedure, or for some other motives, may
complain about the Iraqi conduct.
Every fair-minded person knows that as far as resolution 1441 is
concerned, the Iraqis have been fulfilling their obligations under the
When Iraq objects to the conduct of those implementing the Security
Council resolutions, that doesn't mean that Iraq wishes to push things
Iraq has no interest in war. No Iraqi official or ordinary citizen has
expressed a wish to go to war.
The question should be directed at the other side. Are they looking
for a pretext so they could justify war against Iraq?
If the purpose was to make sure that Iraq is free of nuclear, chemical
and biological weapons then they can do that.
These weapons do not come in small pills that you can hide in your
These are weapons of mass destruction and it is easy to work out if
Iraq has them or not.
We have said many times before and we say it again today that Iraq is
free of such weapons.
So when Iraq objects to the conduct of the inspection teams or others,
that doesn't mean that Iraq is interested in putting obstacles before
them which could hinder the efforts to get to the truth.
It is in our interest to facilitate their mission to find the truth.
The question is does the other side want to get to the same conclusion
or are they looking for a pretext for aggression?
If those concerned prefer aggression then it's within their reach. The
super powers can create a pretext any day to claim that Iraq is not
implementing resolution 1441.
They have claimed before that Iraq did not implement the previous
However after many years it became clear that Iraq had complied with
these resolutions. Otherwise, why are they focusing now on the latest
resolution and not the previous ones?
Tony Benn, interviewing Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, asked the Iraqi
leader whether there was any prospect for peace.
Tony Benn: May I broaden the question out, Mr President, to the
relations between Iraq and the UN, and the prospects for peace more
broadly, and I wonder whether with all its weaknesses and all the
difficulties, whether you see a way in which the UN can reach that
objective for the benefit of humanity?
Saddam Hussein: The point you raised can be found in the United
Nations charter. As you know, Iraq is one of the founders and first
signatories of the charter.
If we look at the representatives of two superpowers - America and
Britain - and look at their conduct and their language, we would
notice that they are more motivated by war than their responsibility
And when they talk about peace all they do is accuse others they wish
to destroy in the name of peace.
They claim they are looking after the interests of their people. You
know as well as I do that this is not the truth.
Yes the world would respect this principle if it was genuinely
It's not about power but it is about right and wrong, about when we
base our human relations on good, and respect this principle.
So it becomes simple to adhere to this principle because anyone who
violates it will be exposed to public opinion.
| Tony Benn: There are tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of
people in Britain and America, in Europe and worldwide, who want to
see a peaceful outcome to this problem, and they are the real
Americans in my opinion, the real British, the real French, the real
Germans, because they think of the world in terms of their children.
I have ten grandchildren and in my family there is English, Scottish,
American, French, Irish, Jewish and Indian blood, and for me politics
is about their future, their survival.
And I wonder whether you could say something yourself directly through
this interview to the peace movement of the world that might help to
advance the cause they have in mind?
Saddam Hussein: First of all we admire the
development of the peace movement around the world in the last few years.
We pray to God to empower all those working against war and for the
cause of peace and security based on just peace for all.
And through you we say to the British people that Iraqis do not hate
the British people. Before 1991, Iraq and Britain had a normal
relationship as well as normal relations with America.
At that time the British governments had no reason to criticise Iraq
as we hear some voices doing these days.
We hope the British people would tell those who hate the Iraqis and
wish them harm that there is no reason to justify this war and please
tell them that I say to you because the British people are brave -
tell them that the Iraqis are brave too.
Tell the British people if the Iraqis are subjected to aggression or
humiliation they would fight bravely.
Just as the British people did in the Second World War and we will
defend our country as they defended their country each in its own way.
The Iraqis don't wish war but if war is imposed upon them - if they
are attacked and insulted - they will defend themselves. They will
defend their country, their sovereignty and their security.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has denied links to al-Qaeda during his
interview with veteran peace activist Tony Benn at one of the
presidential palaces in Baghdad.
Tony Benn: I have another question which has been raised. Do you have links
Saddam Hussein: If we had a relationship with al-Qaeda and we believed
in that relationship we wouldn't be ashamed to admit it.
Therefore I would like to tell you directly and also through you to
anyone who is interested to know that we have no relationship with