www.globalresearch.ca Centre for Research on Globalisation Centre de recherche sur la mondialisation
Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Sa'id al-Sahhaf said that 207 Iraqi "civilians" had been wounded in US-British strikes on Baghdad. During a live news conference in Baghdad with Arab and foreign correspondents broadcast live by Qatari Al-Jazeera satellite TV on 22 March, Al-Sahhaf denied US and British reports that the port city of Umm Qasr and the Al-Faw Peninsula had been captured and said that Iraqi forces had held their positions and inflicted "grave losses" on enemy troops. He accused US and British forces of abducting civilians from the peninsula in order to allege they were captured Iraqi troops. Al-Sahhaf also said that Iraqi troops had set five enemy tanks ablaze during confrontations near the town of Al-Battha south of Nasiriyah. The following is an excerpt from Al-Sahhaf's news conference, broadcast live by Qatari Al-Jazeera satellite TV on 22 March; broadcast in progress; Al-Sahhaf speaks in Arabic English with simultaneous translation into Arabic; processed from the Arabic; subheadings inserted editorially:
Al-Sahhaf - Passage omitted on Al-Sahhaf introductory statement in English which is covered in greater detail in statements in Arabic below
You are most welcome. I would like to speak in Arabic. First, I would like to brief you on what is happening on the combat fronts. You must have heard some reports from some media outlets that misrepresent the facts, particularly those affiliated with the gang of world scoundrels, some media outlets, particularly the US media outlets, which profess to be free, when in point of fact they have nothing to do with freedom, and the Jewish and Zionist media outlets.
Regarding combat fronts, these media outlets said that the situation in Umm Qasr is in doubt and that there are conflicting reports regarding the situation there. There are reports that it has been occupied. These outlets also promoted a similar report regarding the situation in Al-Faw, saying that it came under bombardment.
The minister of defence spoke to you. You must have watched him on various television screens worldwide. He painted an accurate picture of the situation on the combat fronts. He pointed out how the failed ones failed to make any advances anywhere except in the areas that he identified for you.
Capture of Umm Qasr, Al-Faw denied
Now the situation is as follows: In Umm Qasr, the Iraqi forces held out in their positions. Throughout the night and up to now the combat has been intense. We inflicted grave losses on them. They made attempts to carry out various offensives. However, they failed. We crushed their advance units. They failed to penetrate our forces' positions in Umm Qasr.
With respect to the situation in Al-Faw, the British told big lies. In Al-Faw, our forces' positions remained in place. As the defence minister said, they the British and US troops established a foothold. The combat against them is intense. They held some civilians. By hook or by crook, these failed ones wanted to claim that they captured Iraqis. Therefore, they held some civilians in the Al-Faw Peninsula. These cowards kidnapped civilians. These mercenaries and hirelings kidnapped civilians in the Al-Faw Peninsula so that they might claim that they captured Iraqi soldiers.
Their failure in this regard is abysmal. They want to tell the world changes thought - as a matter of fact, they do not respect the world, they want to tell taxpayers and the domestic public to keep them deceived sentence incomplete as heard . We will embroil them, confuse them and keep them in the quagmire. They have begun to tell more lies so that they might continue with the perpetration of their crimes. May they be accursed.
Five enemy tanks ablaze
With regard to their columns near the city of Al-Nasiriyah, south of Al-Nasiriyah, yes, they have a column there. It is being confronted now. God willing, we will neutralize it. There is a secondary column that is headed for Suq al-Shuyukh. It is now being surrounded by the tribes there. There is also a failed column that advanced towards the city of Al-Batha, a small city. They were confronted by the fighters of the Arab Socialist Ba'th Party, other armed men and fighters from within the tribes of Al-Batha, who set five tanks and other vehicles ablaze a few hours ago. They are still in flames. Before I came to you I was in touch with the correspondent of the Iraqi News Agency who was near the site. Five tanks and other vehicles were set ablaze. Fighting is continuing. God willing, we will also neutralize this column. They have another column that is heading toward the Base of Al-Imam Ali Bin-Abi-Talib, may God's peace and blessings be upon him, south of the city of Al-Nasiriyah. This column was confronted with massive firepower. As a result, the column withdrew. They achieved nothing. This is how the situation looked just an hour ago. It is not as they claim.
Civilian wounded totals 207
With regard to their cowardly attack on the capital city of Baghdad throughout last night, at dawn today and until this morning, they mentioned the number of missiles that they fired on us, giving the number of 300 plus. We counted 19 missiles that landed in a small area of Baghdad. At dawn, I went to see parts of these missiles. Nineteen missiles fell on a small area. I think that the Iraqi ground defences shot down dozens of missiles. We are in the process of counting all these missiles quickly, God willing.
With regard to the gang of world scoundrels, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, accompanied by US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers, this failed general, made an appearance to boast and say that their weapons are precise and that the air bombardment cannot be compared with what happened in the Second World War. They made other absurd claims.
In their attack on Baghdad, this gang, the gang of world scoundrels, used hundreds of missiles, aircraft and stealth bombers. The number of the wounded, the number of civilians, citizens - children, women, elderly people and men - wounded while they were in their homes totaled 207. They are now being treated at five hospitals in the capital. This number was obtained an hour ago. I am in touch with Minister of Health Dr Umid Midhat Mubarak. He informed me of this figure.
We invite you, we extend an invitation to you, to visit them. We made vehicles and everything else available to you so that you may visit the military and war sites - these 207 military sites- these innocent Iraqi citizens. Rumsfeld, the coward and war criminal, said that his missiles were fired at military sites. We will show you 207 hospitalized military sites. You are most welcome. Through your visits, we want the world to know that these wounded people will remain incurable unless you tell the truth about them. We are talking about a gang of war criminals, a gang of world scoundrels, transnational scoundrels. These are the representatives of the hateful US colonial rule. They are the representatives of the new wave of the hateful colonial rule. They tell lies during the day and at night. They are shameless.
"Evil US empire"
God willing, in the course of my effort to disclose the facts as they are, I find myself compelled to characterize them as I have done, because this is the least that I can say about them. These are not ordinary human beings. They are criminals. As a matter of fact, they are criminals, both by nature and by training. By nature, because they are not decent. They are criminals. When I say that they are criminals by training, I mean to say that the state of criminals, the United States of America, trains its politicians to become criminals. Big institutions in this imperial state, in this evil US empire, prepare their politicians to become criminals. The institutions that hold sway in this renegade state, in this outlaw state, train their politicians to become criminals.
Yesterday, they told lies and boasted about their technological know-how. How miserable are they, and how miserable is their utilization of technology. They are using it to cause destruction, kill innocent people and occupy other states in a miserable bid to revive the hateful colonization enterprise in the world.
There are 207 Iraqis wounded. I invite you, I implore you, to talk to them and ask them where they live. If we have an opportunity, we will ask the Civil Defence to help us take you to their residence. You can ask them where they were, and what they were doing. Let the gang of world scoundrels hear what they hit in Baghdad. Damn them. Baghdad will remain steadfast. Baghdad will remain the city of great leader, Saddam Husayn. It will remain lofty and proud, fighting those villains.
God willing, victory will be the Iraqis' lot. Thank you. I am ready to take your questions.
Abu Dhabi TV correspondent Shakir Hamid Last night, we took pictures of three house in the area of Azamiyah words indistinct . They were bombarded and were almost completely demolished. What is the number of the wounded and those killed among civilians in that area? My second question is whether you have changed your policy in dealing with the prisoners in accordance with the Geneva Convention and human rights laws? Does this mean that you captured a number of prisoners during these incursions?
Al-Sahhaf The issue of the number of prisoners captured is another issue. As for the decision of leader President Saddam Husayn, may God watch over him, yesterday, he made that decision in spite of all the crimes committed by the gang of international scoundrels against the Iraqis. These crimes have been committed in violation of all laws, norms and all principles of the international humanitarian law. In spite of all these ugly crimes, President Saddam Husayn ordered that the prisoners should be treated in accordance with Geneva Conventions. We are going to abide by these conventions in implementation of President Saddam Husayn's orders, although the whole world, headed by the Iraqis, know that they do not deserve any mercy.
Unidentified correspondent in English Words indistinct President Saddam Husayn address the Iraqi public - the Iraqi people words indistinct ?
Al-Sahhaf in English Next.
Unidentified correspondent Your Excellency the Minister, have American troops seized two airfields west of the capital?
Al-Sahhaf This is part of the silly illusions and part of the psychological warfare to deceive public opinion and the media. They use the media to spread falsehood and hide their crimes. They have not occupied anything. I conveyed facts to you, and you can check what I say. This is the situation at Umm Qasr. The Iraqi forces are still in their positions. They have repelled a number of attacks and foiled all the attempts by those mercenary criminals who were unable to make any breakthrough in the Al-Faw. There is fierce fighting against them. God willing, we will throw them into the sea. In Al-Nasiriyah there is a column heading towards Suq al-Shuyukh. This column is besieged by tribes and fighters. Another column is heading toward Al-Batha. Half an hour before I came here, five tanks and other vehicles were burnt out. The column is also being besieged by the courageous Ba'th Party's fighters, militias and tribes. They headed towards Ur archaeological site, the birthplace of Prophet Abraham, peace be upon him. They tried, as they did in 1991, to steal antiquities. However, this time they fled after they were confronted. They tried to attack Imam Ali-Bin-Abi Talib Air Base but they were surprised by fighting and they fled. We counted 19 cruise missiles that fell in a small area of Baghdad. There are also many fragments of these failed missiles. In the Al-Faw peninsula they abducted a number of civilians.
"We will always tell the truth"
Correspondent in English Can you assess the results three days after the start of war?
Al-Sahhaf in English If we are going to speak about numbers, we will do so now.
Correspondent words indistinct the Arab governments towards US Secretary of State Colin Powell's demand to expel the Iraqi diplomats?
Al-Sahhaf The demand has been rebuffed by the whole world. Only some silly subservient governments, such as the Australian government, have accepted that demand.
Correspondent in English Several residential buildings in Baghdad and other cities were demolished. Are we going to see these sites?
Al-Sahhaf in English Yes, we will ask the Civil Defence to arrange for such visits.
Correspondent in English Have government buildings been attacked?
Al-Sahhaf Yes, I showed you a government building, including the guest palace, where wise leaders resided, including Nelson Mandela, former Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella and other ranking leaders. These leaders were supposed to come to Baghdad to see whether Iraq still has weapons of mass destruction. This idea came up during the presence of the UN inspectors. This committee of wise men was scheduled to come to Iraq and check the situation. This was what I showed you yesterday.
Correspondent in English question indistinct
Al-Sahhaf in English Next. Please ask something reasonable.
Al-Jazeera correspondent Diyar al-Umari Your excellency the minister, the United States and Britain have not admitted the crash of several of their planes in spite of the Iraqi affirmations and what happened today when two British helicopters collided. How do you interpret this blackout?
Al-Sahhaf I think that these mercenaries, by nature, tell lies and impose a blackout in a bid to words indistinct . We will always tell the truth, and they will deny and hide, but one day after another, you will realize that what we tell you is the truth.
Al-Umari What is the truth about the downing of the plane?
Al-Sahhaf It is as I have said. You are welcome, and thank you very much. The brothers at the press centre will take you to hospitals. The health minister will accompany you. Al-Sahhaf then speaks in English His excellency the health minister will take you to hospitals to show you the civilian victims who were wounded by this barbaric bombardment yesterday.
Al-Umari How do you evaluate the military situation so far? Are you optimistic about what is going on in the field of operations?
Al-Sahhaf The people are fighting in a great manner in support of their armed forces and the fighters of the Arab Socialist Ba'th Party and the Al-Quds Army. We will get them stuck in the mud and we will certainly defeat them. Thank you.
Source: Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic 0632 gmt 22 Mar 03 /) BBC Monitoring Copyright BBC 2003. For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .