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Allawi rejects charge that he's U.S. puppet

Interim prime minister says he fought Saddam before U.S. did

Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi rejects criticism of the new government as a puppet of the United States.
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Saddam Hussein
Ayad Allawi

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi rebuffed critics Sunday who accuse him of being a U.S. puppet.

Allawi said he was fighting former dictator Saddam Hussein "when America was with him, when Britain was with him, when the world was with him."

"I thought he was a man who was committing crimes against the people of Iraq," Allawi said on ABC's "This Week."

"I stood against him. I fought bravely against him. I fought with honor against him. And this is not only me, but other political forces in Iraq. We earned [the right] to come back to Iraq to serve our people."

The United States and other Western countries backed Saddam's regime throughout much of the 1980s as Iraq fought the new Islamic republic in Iran -- including providing weapons and training.

Allawi's Iraqi National Accord party was backed by U.S. and British intelligence agencies, but he insisted that neither he nor other members of the interim government -- many of whom are returned exiles like Allawi -- are puppets.

"We respect our relationship to the United States, but we are puppets to nobody," he said. "We are only answerable to the Iraqi people and to the interests of the Iraqis."

Allawi is a former member of Saddam's Baath Party but became the target of Saddam's wrath after he broke from the dictator in 1970s and fled to Britain.

"Saddam tried to kill me a lot, as he tried to kill the Iraqi people," Allawi said. "And he did kill a lot of Iraqi people and did harm me and harm others in my family."

In one incident, Allawi suffered severe wounds when an Iraqi agent attacked him with an ax in his London bedroom.

Saddam appeared before an Iraqi court last week to hear seven preliminary charges outlined in his arrest warrant -- the killing of religious figures in 1974; gassing of Kurds in Halabja in 1988; killing the Kurdish Barzani clan in 1983; killing members of political parties in the last 30 years; the ''Anfal'' campaign of displacing Kurds in 1986-88; the suppression of an uprisings by Kurds and Shiites in 1991; and the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

These are not formal charges against Saddam, which will be worked out during the next few months and detailed in an eventual indictment.

Allawi said Saddam would receive the kind of justice and fairness in his trial in Baghdad that the former dictator did not allow his victims.

"It's very just," he said. "It's very proper. There was no harassment [during Saddam's court appearance], no ill treatment. It was seen all over the world in a very respectable way. And this is something that we are going to adhere to and stick to."

Allawi said he would leave it to Iraq's judiciary to decide on a punishment, should Saddam be found guilty of the charges against him.

"The special tribunal, which is an independent court of justice, will decide," he said. "I'll sign on to whatever the judicial system is going to decide and whatever the court is going to decide."

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