`Saddam delighted in terror attacks on US`

Tariq Aziz told FBI that Saddam had no interest in partnering with Osama.

Updated: Sep 23, 2010, 09:48 AM IST

Washington: Former Iraqi foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, a prominent member of Saddam Hussein`s inner circle, told the FBI that the dictator "delighted" in the 1998 terrorist bombings of two US embassies in East Africa but had no interest in partnering with Osama bin Laden, declassified documents show.

"Saddam did not trust Islamists," Aziz said, according to handwritten notes of a June 27, 2004 interrogation, although he viewed al Qaeda as an "effective" organisation.

The FBI notes are among hundreds of pages of interrogation records of top Iraqi officials including Saddam provided to a news agency this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

While most of the Saddam records had been previously released, the National Security Archive, an independent research institute at George Washington University, said the FBI had previously refused to declassify Aziz`s records.

The records are from an FBI operation code-named Desert Spider, which sought to compile evidence of the Saddam regime`s war crimes and to test the theory that Saddam and his intelligence services had some form of cooperation with al Qaeda prior to the US invasion.

The FBI had previously released summaries of its 20 sessions with Saddam, in which he denied any relationship with Osama bin Laden but appeared to acknowledge that some Iraqi officials had met him.

More than seven years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, suspicions Saddam might have secretly collaborated with al Qaeda or other terror groups remains central to the continuing debate over the wisdom of launching the war, which has cost the lives of more than 4,400 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis.

The administration of former US president George W Bush based its case for war in part on fears that Iraq might provide nuclear arms to al Qaeda for use against the US

No nuclear weapons or any sign of an active nuclear program have been found in postwar Iraq, and the Aziz interrogation records support arguments that while Saddam viewed the US as his enemy, he was also hostile to al Qaeda and its radical religious ideology.

Saddam considered Osama bin Laden and other Islamic extremists to be "opportunists" and "hypocrites”, Aziz told the FBI, during one of four interrogations in a US detention facility in Baghdad.

"In Aziz`s presence, Saddam had only expressed negative sentiments about UBL," the interrogation summary said, referring to Osama bin Laden.

PTI