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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Former Iraqi Information Minister Al-Sahaf in Custody?

Aired June 25, 2003 - 06:34   ET

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

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: This just coming in to CNN this morning. The "Daily Mirror" in Britain is reporting that former Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed al-Sahaf is now in U.S. custody. CNN is working to confirm this report.
We brought over David Clinch to talk more about this.

I'm reading the article in the "Daily Mirror," and it's interesting.

DAVID CLINCH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL EDITOR: Right, yes, Carol. Well, it is. You know, the British newspapers are dominated by the story Ben was just reporting on, the British soldiers killed. But right there on the front page of the "Daily Mirror" this morning is this "world exclusive," as they call it, that Mohammed al-Sahaf, the information minister, has been captured or taken into custody in Baghdad.

We are trying to confirm it, but this is the difficult point here. This is a tabloid newspaper, which doesn't necessarily make things up, but on the other hand would not be seen as terribly reliable. But on the other hand, the coalition sources that we're speaking to in Baghdad and elsewhere are not really denying it, but there's sort of a complicated point. They're saying he's not on the most-wanted list, and so, therefore, we shouldn't be looking for CENTCOM or somebody else to put out a release saying -- heralding the fact that they've captured this guy.

COSTELLO: According to the article, though, U.S. forces got him, but we don't know that.

CLINCH: Well, caught him apparently, according to the "Daily Mirror," and this is why we've actually -- one of the reasons we decided to start reporting it is they have some interesting specifics, saying the U.S. set up a road block in Baghdad, found him, encountered him, took him into custody, and reported details such as that he was dressed not in his military uniform, as we see him here, but in a short-sleeved shirt. They allowed him to go into the home, where apparently he's been staying with relatives, get some clothes, and then...

COSTELLO: A toothbrush and a razor.

CLINCH: A toothbrush and a razor, although, they say, curiously, not a tie. He was asked to remove his tie in case he'd commit suicide. But the "Daily Mirror" reports he was allowed to take a razor, so there may be a question mark over that. COSTELLO: Very true.

CLINCH: Again, we're pinning it on the newspaper, if you want to put it this way.

COSTELLO: Oh, you have to...

CLINCH: We're waiting...

COSTELLO: You have to impart some more for this article...

(CROSSTALK)

CLINCH: Absolutely.

COSTELLO: He was apparently hanging out with relatives watching satellite TV.

CLINCH: Yes.

COSTELLO: And he's been in an absolute state of shock since the regime fell in Iraq.

CLINCH: Well, I'm sure. You know, this was a fascinating individual. I am determined to find out whether he's still carrying around that Ministry of Information sign that he used to bring with him everywhere to have those impromptu press conferences, because you've got to wonder, he's not on the most-wanted list, he is not being sought for any crime, but he obviously doesn't know what to do with himself right now.

COSTELLO: Yes, apparently he's been watching TV, and his few pleasures were a few shots of scotch whiskey and regular barbeques of skewered beef and lamb.

CLINCH: Well, very interesting. I mean...

COSTELLO: Well, and also in this article it says that he might be able to tell U.S. officials where Saddam Hussein is.

CLINCH: Absolutely.

COSTELLO: But nobody believes that.

CLINCH: Absolutely. I mean, you know, there are things that he possibly could offer, so it is somewhat of a serious story, but we're not putting it on the same level as the killing of these British soldiers. We're just fascinated, as is everybody else, in this character, and we're waiting to see if this is, in fact, confirmed.

COSTELLO: I'm just dying to know if he knows what a celebrity he has become here in the United States.

CLINCH: I think he probably does. I think he probably does.

COSTELLO: I think so, too. Thank you, David. We appreciate it. CLINCH: All right.

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