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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Iraqi Information Minister Speaks Out Against Attack

Aired March 22, 2003 - 01:35   ET

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

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Just -- we'll stay with -- while that's going on, this is a news conference going on in Baghdad, and we'll see if it's being translated.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MOHAMMED AL-SAHAF, IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER: They have another column...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (TRANSLATING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

BROWN: It's being translated, but at this point, not in English.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (TRANSLATING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

Right, no, the problem here is we're pulling this -- go ahead and turn her (UNINTELLIGIBLE) translation down if you can. The problem here is he's speaking English, but the translation is going off into Arabic as we're pulling this one of the Arab television network.

Now, I don't know if we can somehow get a...

AL-SAHAF: ... which is an historical city and it's all and houses, a number of antiquities. A small column is moving toward that area where we believe prophet Abraham is buried. There again, there are people, civilians live in Seria (ph). They are to defend the city, also members of the Ba'ath Party. The resisting -- the invasion and invaders are retreating, as we speak...

BROWN: This is the information minister. We're going to go back over what he has said. There has been some speculation as to who may have died in the bunker and it is possible that he -- as I heard it, OK. And we're going to go back and double-check all of this. He may be discussing who has survived and who has not -- he may, underscore. He may.

I'm just trying to get oriented here. Baghdad is the lower picture of the three monitors back there. Walt Rodgers' cavalry unit is up there in the middle. And Martin Savidge's Marines up there at the top.

AL-SAHAF: ... regarding the cowardly attack, using missiles and war planes against Baghdad, the casualties among civilians until now, in hospitals, there are 207 people, women, children and other civilians. And we'll take you, if you'd like, to visit them and see for yourselves. They have been distributed to five hospitals and there might be other casualties, which have not been accounted for. This villain (UNINTELLIGIBLE) claim that only targeted military installations. We will show you and show the international media these so-called military targets (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

The first point, which I would like to tell you, as far as the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) France, you may have heard from some of the media, which do not say the truth, especially those who belong to the villains and the gangsters, those who are support the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

As far as the Far Peninsula is concerned, yesterday, under heavy bombardment, the defense minister you spoke to, and you must have seen him, and he gave an accurate picture to France and he said that what was the military position of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and how they failed to advance.

The situation in Umm Qasr so far, the Iraqi forces are in their positions, and they have been highly frightened, and they have lost -- they have incurred many losses. And they haven't been able to advance or achieve a breakthrough through our defenses at Umm Qasr.

In the Al-Faw Peninsula, the British have been lying about the situation there. Our forces are still there. The fighting is continuing and is very intensive. They have taken some civilians. Those cowards are desperate to show any achievement. They have hijacked some civilians from Elfal. Those mercenaries could not civilians from Al-Faw Peninsula, so they can't claim that they have captured Iraqi soldiers.

But they -- it shows how desperate they are. They want to show the world, a world that they don't respect, to their own taxpayers so they hope to mislead their own people because we are going to draw them into the swamp before all they can do it lie and continue lying.

As for their columns near Masareah (ph), to the south of the Masareah (ph), they have a column there that is being resisted, as we speak, and hopefully it will be destroyed. A small column advanced to the Sokh Ashir (ph), which has been surrounded by the tribes there. Another column has advanced going to Al Bathoutch (ph). It's a small town, and has been rebuffed by fighters from the Bath Party and the tribes.

A few hours ago, five tanks, belonging to the invaders, have been destroyed and they're still on fire. I've spoken to the Iraqi Press Agency person there and the fighting is continuing. And, god willing, we will destroy this column.

They having another column that is going toward the Alibin Alitabi (ph) base, to the south of Masareah (ph). They were faced with heavy fire and retreated without achieving anything. This is the position on (UNINTELLIGIBLE) an hour ago, and it's not as they claim.

As for the cowardly assault on the capital of Baghdad last night and this morning until dawn, of course, they said that they launched over 300 missiles. We have calculated, in a small area in Baghdad, that 19 missiles fell on that part of (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

At dawn, I went there and I saw parts of these missiles. There were 19 missiles in a very small area; therefore, I expect tens of missiles that have been shot down by the Iraqi defenses, and we are calculating all these missiles.

This gang of villains, international villains, this could be the Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his hopeless General Myers talking about the position bombing and how that no one should compare what's happened to the Second World War and all this meaningless allegations.

This international gang of villains assaulting Baghdad with hundreds of missiles and Stealth Bombers, that number of injured civilians, men, women and children and their houses, where their houses have been hit.

The number of the wounded, until an hour ago, and I'll be in touch with the minister for help. He told me that the number of injured is 207 in the hospital, in five different hospitals in the capital. And we invite you. We have arranged transport for you to go and visit these so-called military positions, 207 military positions, those innocent people been called by that war criminal, Rumsfeld, who claimed that he directed his missiles to military targets. We will be showing you 207 military targets at the hospital now.

You're welcome to the word through you can see that there is not truth to these gangs. But to tell the world the truth, this is a gang of villains, of outcasts, representatives of the ugly American imperialism. These are the presenters of the new wave of imperialism. They lie day and night. They are not ashamed of anything.

God willing, by showing the truth, I'm caused to call them these names because this is the least I can describe them with. They are not ordinary, decent human people. They are criminals. That's their nature. These are abnormal, and their conduct, this country of outlaws, the United States prepares its petitions to become criminals. This empire of evil, the evil empire prepares its people to become war criminals.

This, the institutions in this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) country prepares its politicians to become criminals.

BROWN: The Iraqi information minister. It's obviously -- you know, there is some information in this. And there is some railing against the United States, the criminals, as he called them. He named General Myers by name, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld by name. This gang of criminals, their cowardly assault, he says at one point.

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