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'Saddam's mouthpiece' re-emerges

Al-Sahaf looking older and subdued during interviews with Arabic TV
Al-Sahaf looking older and subdued during interviews with Arabic TV

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Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, Saddam Hussein's information minister known for his misleading statements, appears on Arabic TV. CNN's Jane Arraf reports (June 26)
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Ex-Iraqi information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf has re-emerged on Arab television screens claiming the U.S. released him after questioning.

The former minister, who was ridiculed in the U.S. and UK for his apparently inaccurate media briefings alleging Iraqi successes during the war, said Thursday the battle had been a "very difficult time. Not just on one man, but on all."

With white hair and without his trademark beret and grin he appeared subdued compared to his usual combative style.

He appeared on Arabic news channel Al-Arabiya and Abu Dhabi TV. The interviews were recorded in Baghdad Thursday. Both TV stations declined to say where the interviews were conducted.

Speaking to Al-Arabiya, Al-Sahaf said he made contact with U.S. forces through friends after the war. He was questioned about his job and later released.

Al-Sahaf was not on the U.S. list of 55-most wanted Iraqis -- the so-called pack of cards.

"I was not one of the Iraqi leadership. I was an information minister, doing my job till the last minute," he told Abu Dhabi TV.

"The last two days [of the regime] I was not able to get in touch [except for a] few military seniors."

When asked if he knew where the Iraqi leader is, he said: "I don't know."

Al -Sahaf's daily briefings during the U.S.-led invasion of his country won him cult status and the nickname 'Comical Ali.'

He continued to insist from the roof of the Palestine Hotel in Iraq's capital that coalition forces were facing annihilation as live TV pictures showed U.S. tanks rolling around Baghdad.

He warned Baghdad will be the "graveyard" of coalition forces and that they will lose "even if they bring double American troops."

"Americans are now in disarray," he was seen on Al-Jazeera television as saying.

Al-Sahaf will be back on TV screens Friday.

"They try to engage the world as much as they can and we will continue until they leave our land."

Iraq, he said, will "spread them even more and chop them up."

Asked in the TV interview whether the comments originated from ex-Iraq president Saddam Hussein, or himself, al-Sahaf said: "No, these are all from the Arab history and all will be clear on time."

Al-Sahaf surprised -- and sometimes delighted -- Western viewers with his denials. Merchandise developed around his character, such as an action-man style doll. (Full Story)

Record producers recorded a dance track including some of his most popular phrases such as, "There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!" and on coalition troops, "God will roast their stomachs in hell at the hands of Iraqis."

A spoof Web site was so popular it was getting 4,000 hits a second shortly after it first appeared on the Internet.

Al-Sahaf's 25-minute interview will air on Friday.

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