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Interview transcript

Transcript of part one of Correspondent Brent Sadler's exclusive interview with Hussein Kamel

September 21, 1995
Web posted at: 11:01 p.m. EDT (0301 GMT)

[Kamel] In his first television interview since fleeing Baghdad six weeks ago, Hussein Kamel insisted on answering questions alone, denying access to the other members of his family.

He began by refuting Baghdad's accusations that he was working for American intelligence. In a CNN interview after the defection, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz called Kamel a spy. "He has been doing that for years for years," said Aziz. "And this shows that this man has been recruited by the CIA for a long period."

KAMEL: (responding to the charge) I have not been disloyal to my country, and Tariq Aziz can not discredit my achievements. He cannot give to Iraq a fraction of what I have given. How can a spy give so much. Tariq Aziz knows nothing but empty words. Tariq Aziz is not there because of his efficiency. He is in the regime because Saddam Hussein believes the west will be with him because he is a Christian. If U.N. sanctions are lifted tomorrow Tariq Aziz will lose his power because he is a failure and because he is not popular.

SADLER: Can you state here and now -- does Iraq still to this day hold weapons of mass destruction?

KAMEL: No. Iraq does not possess any weapons of mass destruction. I am being completely honest about this.

SADLER: You were overseeing the program to produce weapons of mass destruction were you told to keep secrets away from the U.N. weapons inspectors.

KAMEL: The order was to hide much of it from the start and we hid a lot of that information. These were not individual acts of concealment but as a result of direct orders from the top.

SADLER: Did you try very hard to keep them a secret away from the U.N. inspections teams?

KAMEL: No, in my opinion this was not a good strategy. If I thought it was a good strategy, why did I resign from the ministry of defense?

SADLER: In your position, Mr. Kamel, you must have argued your point of a change in strategy with president Saddam himself. What did the Iraqi leader say when you said to him, 'I think your strategy is wrong?'

KAMEL: It's not only Saddam who was guilty. But there are also other officials who are guilty.

SADLER: What officials are we talking about?

KAMEL: Primarily it was Tariq Aziz. And Taha Yassin Ramadan. They were recently joined by general Amer Rasheed. In my opinion they do not understand international politics. That's why they have not solved any problems facing Iraq. This is what made me leave the country, the fact that Saddam Hussein surrounds himself with inefficient ministers and advisers who are not chosen for their competence but according to the whims of the Iraqi president. And as a result of this the whole of Iraq is suffering.

SADLER: The Iraqi government admitted that biological weapons were made at the Al Hakim complex outside Baghdad. But officials were reticent about the nature of the warfare agents produced there.

KAMEL: Most important was anthrax, which is a very dangerous weapon. But there is a problem in delivering it. You can deliver it by planes or by missiles but it will not have the impact or coverage of a nuclear weapon.

SADLER: How close was Iraq in your knowledge to producing a deliverable nuclear weapon?

KAMEL: First we had enriched French uranium that was ready for a bomb and highly enriched Russian uranium as well.

SADLER: Did Saddam Hussein ever ask his atomic scientists whether it was feasible to deliver some kind of nuclear device at the time of the gulf war?

KAMEL: We designed the shell of the weapon. Our first design was for 12 tons and then it went down to six tons and we wanted a very small bomb with a 500 kilo warhead. Or even 300 kilos so it could be easily carried by missiles or warplanes. It would be more powerful. Iraq was working very quickly on this. We wanted the missiles to carry the nuclear weapons. But that's all in the past now and Iraq is not going to repeat that.

SADLER: Do you remember the work that went into the Iraqi super gun?

KAMEL: (laughter) Of course I remember the super gun. It was not being prepared against any country. It was a defensive weapon.

SADLER: Could that super gun have delivered a chemical or biological warhead?

KAMEL: Of course if it were ready, even nuclear. As I said before, our atomic scientists were trying to develop a small nuclear warhead.

SADLER: Was it a viable project?

KAMEL: Yes. It was meant for long range attack and also to blind spy satellites. Our scientists were seriously working on that. It was designed to explode a shell in space that would have sprayed a sticky material on the satellite and blinded it.

SADLER: You'll remember the weapons inspection team was camped outside the ministry of agriculture. What secret was being kept away from the U.N. then?

KAMEL: Of course there were secrets in the Ministry of Agriculture. We are talking clearly about the past and the Iraqi team managed to remove documents in boxes. They concerned chemical and biological weapons and I believe it also had something to do with nuclear weapons. At that time we scattered the documents and did not put them in one place. They were hidden in other ministries, homes and offices. The inspection teams were not able to find them all until recently, when Iraq handed them over.

SADLER: So it delayed the uncovering of that information for more than two years as a result of that trickery.

KAMEL: Naturally if we had declared all our secrets the U.N. siege of sanctions would not have lasted this long. This policy also destroyed Iraq's international credibility, which to me was more important than keeping secrets. No, I have never regretted leaving Iraq. I am now more confident than ever that my actions were justified in view of the government's actions past and present. Despite my close ties and with president Saddam Hussein, I know there is no turning back.

SADLER: We'll take a break there. When we return Hussein Kamel will explain how Saddam Hussein rules Iraq and he'll assess the measures the Iraqi leader is prepared to take to ensure he remains in power.

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