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Authorities Deny That Uday Hussein Negotiating Surrender

Aired May 23, 2003 - 19:08   ET


DARYN KAGAN, ANCHOR: As more of Iraq's 55 most wanted fall into U.S. hands, could one of Saddam Hussein's sons actually trying to initiate a surrender? That's what the "Wall Street Journal" is reporting today, but U.S. military and intelligence officials say that article is incorrect.

LT. GEN. DAVID MCKIERNAN, COMMANDER, U.S. GROUND FORCES: I can tell you that from day one, and it continues today, we're searching for everybody that's on the black list, to include his family.

Nobody's brought an offer from Uday to me, and I would facilitate his coming on in. But it would be unconditional.


KAGAN: Well, here to sort all that out for us, excuse me, the confusion is our national correspondent David Ensor. And for action from Iraq, we're going to bring in Ben Wedeman from Kirkuk.

David, we'll go ahead and start with you. What are your sources telling you about a possible surrender of Uday Hussein?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That no such negotiations are underway, Daryn. This is obviously an intriguing story, plucked from page eight of the "Wall Street Journal," because Uday Hussein is a notorious person, alleged to have committed horrible acts of cruelty. So he's someone who's intriguing to the public and as reporters, as other journalists, saw this article that was sort of buried in the "Wall Street Journal" they pulled it out and paid a lot of attention to it.

But my sources tell me and we've also, as you just saw, heard from General McKiernan, they just say there is no truth to this matter. There is no negotiation going on between the United States at any level and any representative of Uday Hussein. They have not been approached by him. The story is wrong.

Now, that said, you know, he's in a difficult position, along with Saddam Hussein and a few other people, if they're still alive in Iraq. It is likely that at some point he'll either be captured or he'll turn himself in. There may be a third party that will contact the United States. But my sources tell me it has not happened yet.

KAGAN: But just the idea that he would be negotiating. He doesn't seem to be in any kind of place to negotiate if, as you point out, if in fact he is alive. What does he have as bargaining chips?

ENSOR: Not much, but you know, take, for example, the case of Tariq Aziz. You remember some weeks ago, he had a third party contact U.S. authorities to say he was ready to turn himself in. He wanted certain things. He asked, if I'm going to do this can I have some assurances about the safety of my family, that you will protect them? My medical situation is not good. I need medical care, will I get that? U.S. authorities were able to say, look, if we have a prisoner and that prisoner needs medical care, that prisoner gets medical care.

So there were just a few things he wanted to talk about before he coming in, but basically there was no deal made and there won't be any made, I'm told, for Uday Hussein, in case he ever does contact the United States and ask for one.

KAGAN: Ben, let's bring you in here from Kirkuk. You were one of the last western journalists to interview Uday Hussein before the war took place. Does he even strike you as the kind of character who would surrender, let alone try to negotiate a surrender?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, actually I wouldn't be surprised if he would. He was really something of a coward and a bully who stood, who hid behind his father all those years, using his power and influence to become rich, to become involved in the smuggling trade, to really torment many people in the Olympic committee and elsewhere.

And therefore, it doesn't surprise me at all that he's the sort of person when he sees that he's cornered, that he doesn't have, really, many options, that he would be the kind of person who would surrender.

We also know that this "Wall Street Journal" article, we don't know whether it's true or false. However, we do know that he has good reason to fear for his life and good reason to try to negotiate some sort of surrender to the American authorities, because he was one of the most hated people in Iraq, somebody who many Iraqis of all ethnic backgrounds and religions would like to see dead and probably wouldn't like to waste time with some sort of war crimes trial. They would just like to see him strung up in the streets.

So definitely he's the kind of person who would like to get the protection of the U.S. forces and surrender to them, rather to the Iraqi people -- Daryn.

KAGAN: If and when the time comes, he might actually need protection and being in the custody of coalition forces might actually seem like the better alternative.

Quickly, Ben, let me ask you what's the feeling there in Iraq? Do people believe that Saddam Hussein and his two sons are still alive and on the run?

WEDEMAN: Well, one thing the Iraqis don't do is underestimate Saddam Hussein or anyone in his family, and they certainly do think that both of them are alive. But as time goes on and as the American presence and power is felt more and more, the feeling is that chances of Saddam Hussein somehow popping up again and gaining power become less and less. There's growing confidence that the Americans are going to make some sort of long-term presence here, they will be here for quite some time, and there's very little chance that Saddam Hussein or his sons will be able to make a comeback.

Nonetheless, people would definitely -- this rumor from the "Wall Street Journal," it's known in the streets. People are very much listening to the news. But there's not a lot of fear that somehow the fact that they're still out there, they're still alive, it's going to upset too many people. There are too many American troops in this country to really allow Uday or Saddam Hussein to be a threat to people.

KAGAN: And David, one more question for you, as these Iraqi officials on the list of 55, as they do turn themselves in, it's kind of the last we hear from them. Where do they go and what are the Americans or the British doing with them?

ENSOR: Well, that's a good question and they're not saying very much in way of response to that when we ask it. I gather that they are being kept in Iraq and they are being questioned to try to obtain information that may be useful to -- to the coalition forces that are holding the country.

I mean, for example, Tariq Aziz is said to have had a few things to say about where money might have gone and where certain people might have gone. That information is useful to the coalition forces.

So they're in Iraq. They're being questioned. That's about all we know -- Daryn.

KAGAN: David Ensor in Washington, Ben Wedeman in Kirkuk. Gentlemen, thank you very much for those reports.


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