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Interview With Faisal Qaragholi

Aired August 10, 2002 - 07:02   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: With the U.S. seeking to oust Saddam Hussein, State Department and Pentagon officials have met in Washington with leaders of six Iraqi opposition groups. And Vice President Dick Cheney will speak to the groups by teleconference hookup today. Yesterday's meeting was designated to coordinate the Bush administration's work with the Iraqi opposition.
Joining us now from Washington to discuss the relationship is a member of that opposition, Faisal Qaragholi. Thanks very much for being with us, Mr. Qaragholi.

FAISAL QARAGHOLI, IRAQI NATIONAL CONGRESS: Thank you.

COOPER: Did anything substantive come out of the meetings yesterday?

QARAGHOLI: Definitely. There's a very positive poise (ph) that came up that we are, as Iraqi opposition, we are united in our goals, and our aim to bring democracy to Iraqi people by overthrowing the Iraqi regime.

And the other side, the United States, is helping the Iraqi people, coming with a very unified message that all departments of agencies of the administration are united in their goal to help the Iraqi people to overthrow the regime.

COOPER: And is that the message you hope to impart to Vice President Dick Cheney today?

QARAGHOLI: Definitely.

COOPER: There are critics of the Iraqi opposition. One U.S. critic actually referred to the opposition groups as, quote, "silk- suited, Rolex-wearing guys in London." And there are those who say that up to now, the opposition groups have had little impact inside Iraq.

How -- what do you -- how do you respond to those critics?

QARAGHOLI: You can see my response to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with a smile, because we are very diversified opposition. We are -- that's because of our diversity in our country. We are diversified, but (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we are not weak, we are not divided. And definitely we are unfortunately lives in exile because we are living in a democratic country, we'll be -- we will be living in Iraq.

COOPER: How -- do you...

QARAGHOLI: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

COOPER: ... have operational capabilities inside Iraq today?

QARAGHOLI: Definitely. We are defying the regime every day. I mean, we are losing people who's defying the regime in the north, in the south of Iraq, in middle of Iraq. We are people lose their lives every day defying the regime.

And we are the voice of those people who are -- have -- struggling inside, and working very hard with us outside to bring democracy to Iraq.

COOPER: How much contact, up to now, have you had with U.S. officials, and in particular U.S. intelligence agencies?

QARAGHOLI: Well, the -- as Iraqi National Congress, we work only -- mainly with the administration and the State Department and the Defense Department.

COOPER: After Saddam, what would you like to see? I mean, as you mentioned, there are many groups in your umbrella organization, you know, many different viewpoints. Do you have a common goal -- objective for what you -- your vision for post-Saddam Hussein Iraq?

QARAGHOLI: Oh, definitely. We all agreed from every party, every ideology, every thinking that the only solution for Iraqi people and Iraq is real democracy, the law -- in a rule of law and the human rights, and will be a peaceful country, that we are stable, it will be a stable region for the whole area and work very hard to improve the condition in our country.

COOPER: There are those who say that the meeting yesterday, the videoconference meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney today, is basically just lip service on the part of the administration, lip service to the opposition groups, that obviously any operation against Saddam Hussein will be a U.S. operation. Your response to that.

QARAGHOLI: Definitely, and don't forget that Iraqi people were let down many times by the policies of the United States before.

But this time, we think they are very serious, and we are absolutely partners in this operation, because we are in the end of the day, we are the one who are going to take Saddam out of the -- out of Baghdad, because we know the area, we know the people.

And we are -- in this meeting that we asked the Americans that, to have very precise attacks on Saddam Hussein himself and his closest circles, because most of the Iraqi people, Iraqi army, security apparatus, they are waiting for the right moment before the uprise and turn against Saddam Hussein.

COOPER: All right, Faisal Qaragholi, Iraq National Congress, thanks very much for being with us this morning, and good luck in your meetings today with vice President Dick Cheney. QARAGHOLI: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Thank you.

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