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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Al-Jazeera: Voice Claiming to be Saddam Hussein Denies Najaf Attack

Aired September 1, 2003 - 06:31   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, a new audiotape is being played on Arab TV. It is said to be from Saddam Hussein. The voice on the tape talks about that deadly bombing of a Shiite holy shrine in Najaf. We just got word of this just about 15 minutes ago.
Let's take you live to Baghdad and Rym Brahimi.

Rym -- you've listened to the tape. I know you just listened to it a few minutes ago, but give us your impression.

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really adding a lot of confusion to this political scene here in Iraq, if you will. Carol, this tape, as you said, purported to be in the voice of Saddam Hussein, calls on the great Iraqi people not to believe any news that would have come from what he calls "corrupt voices."

He also says the occupying power has accused Saddam and his group of being behind the attack that killed so many people in Najaf on Friday. But he says -- he goes on to say that Saddam Hussein is not the leader only of a minority of people. He is the leader of the Kurds, the Shias, the Sunnis, the Muslims and the non-Muslims of Iraq, basically trying to gather as many people as he can under his umbrella, if you will.

And, of course, it adds confusion to this investigation that is already quite confusing, because we're now hearing that in this investigation, whereas we were told previously that group of non-Arab -- sorry -- non-Iraqi Arabs had been caught, including two Pakistanis, we're now told that there are five suspects by the governor of Najaf. All of them are Iraqis belonging to the former ruling Baath Party.

A coalition officer, however, has told CNN that there are two people being questioned that are non-Iraqi Arabs.

So, a lot of question marks there as to who would have been behind this attack, and where do we go from now -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Rym, it is confusing, because I know that Saddam Hussein is Sunni, but he has carried out attacks against Shiites before when he was leading Iraq. So, why distance himself now if indeed this voice on the audiotape is that of Saddam Hussein?

BRAHIMI: Well, definitely Saddam Hussein, like most of the leaders of Iraq actually before him, was a ruler that didn't necessarily allow for much power among the Shias. And especially, in his case, he actually oppressed the Shia, the majority in the country, for many years.

That said, I just had a chance to catch a couple of people and asked them what they thought. And I know in the procession -- in the funeral procession, a lot of people were chanting anti-Saddam chants, but these people I just spoke to now are saying, well, it would make sense that he would say that, because he is very keen to be seen as a leader of all Iraqis. And he knows the Shias are a majority in a county where Sunnis such as him are a minority in fact. And he's trying to win them over, trying to appease them by saying this is not -- I'm not behind that -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Interesting. Rym Brahimi live from Baghdad this morning.

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