Transcript: Tariq Aziz on Fox News Sunday

Following is a transcribed excerpt from Fox News Sunday, Dec. 15, 2002.

TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS: U.N. arms inspectors are expected this week to make the first substantive comments about 12,000-plus pages of weapons declarations from Iraq. This would follow the busiest two days of inspections since the U.N. teams returned to Iraq.

Last week I flew to Baghdad for an exclusive interview with Saddam Hussein's longtime right-hand man, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. We met in the prime minister's office in Baghdad. Saddam Hussein also is the prime minister.

I began by asking Mr. Aziz what his country wants from the United States.


TARIQ AZIZ, IRAQI DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we hope that the American government, when (ph) knowing the truth, if it has real suspicions, they will stop this war- mongering policy against Iraq and they will allow the lifting of sanctions.

SNOW: If, on the other hand, they find evidence of such weapons, would they then be justified under U.N. resolutions to take action?

AZIZ: Well, let them find — this is hypothetical. I tell you they will not find any weapons of mass destruction because, simply, we don't have.

SNOW: Now, there was an inspection last week of a presidential site. I'm told that your government was unhappy about that.

AZIZ: Well, you won't be unhappy — you won't be happy when people enter your house, you see, and they inspect your house. But we are doing it because we want to prove the truth.

SNOW: Scientists were involved in these programs in the past. What are they doing today?

AZIZ: They're working in the civilian area.

SNOW: Doing similar work?

AZIZ: They're in the civilian area because when you have a scientist in physics and chemicals, et cetera, they can work and produce civilian products for the needs of the people of Iraq.

SNOW: Colin Powell has been represented as the man inside the U.S. government least eager to wage war. Yet last week in an interview with a Paris paper, he called your president a liar. Why do you think he did that?

AZIZ: I think when you speak about liars, the big liars in this world are the statesmen in the United States of America. There's a long history of lying, you see. And that's why in one of the polls when Mr. Clinton was in power, the result of the poll was that we do not trust him — the American people did not trust their president. But if you ask the Iraqi people, they will say that we trust Saddam Hussein.

SNOW: Well, a lot of Americans now trust George W. Bush. And yet he, I think it's safe to say, has been far more assertive on this score than Bill Clinton was. What do you think of him?

AZIZ: I think he's driving America to a hostile, imperialist policy, which is going to have very bad consequences to both America and the world at large.

SNOW: You're a Christian. George W. Bush is a Christian. He often talks about the importance of his religion. Christian to Christian, what would you tell him?

AZIZ: He's a hypocrite, because the Christian, a true Christian would not be a war monger, would not lead — would not push for the destruction of countries and the killing of people. A true Christian would not send tens of thousands of his own young men and women to be killed in a war which does not serve the real interests of the United States as a peaceful-loving nation and which is contrary to the basics of the Christian faith. That's why the Church in the United States is against the war.

SNOW: The rhetoric the administration uses is that this — if there were a war, it would be a war of liberation. And it argues that...

AZIZ: Liberation of what?

SNOW: I was going to say it argues that your people are oppressed.

AZIZ: That is not the responsibility of the American government to liberate Iraq. Iraq is not occupied. Iraq is run by its own people. Why should America interfere in the internal affairs of Iraq? Let them — let the Americans mind their own business.

SNOW: Right now Iraq exports 3 percent of the world's oil, although you have 11 percent of the reserves. Why do you think oil would be such a compelling consideration when you export less than...

AZIZ: Because oil is a very, very important product, and Iraq has the second-largest reserves in the world.  

AZIZ: Now it is 70, 80 percent controlled by the Americans. But after invading Iraq, they will control the whole oil of the whole region.

SNOW: Well, I don't want to get too deep into the argument here, but it seems that it might be news to the Saudis and the Kuwaitis and everybody else in the region that the United States controls the oil business.

AZIZ: Well, nobody in the region, with the exception of the Kuwaitis, who are psychologically sick, nobody in the region would love to have America attacking Iraq, but they are not able to stop it, you see.

SNOW: Do you think they're being duplicitous? Because I'll tell you what we hear sometimes. We sometimes hear them say, we will say publicly we don't want you to invade, but we'll tell you privately that we do (ph).

AZIZ: You know, that's what the Americans are saying. They are telling, "No, don't believe them, they are not saying the truth," et cetera.

But we are part of this region. We know what is good and what's bad for the other countries, as well as to ourselves. We strongly believe — and many, many analysts in the region believe — that any attack on Iraq is going to be bad to the other countries in the region — Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Gulf states, Jordan, et cetera, et cetera.

SNOW: How would it be bad for them, and — first, how would it be bad for them?

AZIZ: Because this is going to destabilize the whole region, and those regions are afraid of being destabilized.

SNOW: It would destabilize them how?

AZIZ: Yes.

SNOW: How?

AZIZ: How? Because, first of all, the public opinion in the whole Arab world is against America, against Israel, against any attack on Iraq. If they participate in the war, they will face a very angry public opinion in their countries.

And when Iraq is divided by them, because of the American invasion, they will not be safe from division, because they have the same ethnic, the same religious situation, conditions as the situation is in Iraq.

SNOW: It appears that the Saudis have granted some tentative permission, not necessarily to be cooperative, but to grant the use of some facilities at Prince Sultan Air Base and also overflight rights, if there should be military action.

AZIZ: Well, I don't know. That's what the American government is saying. Whether it is true or not, let us wait and see.

But the Saudis have made it public. And it's a common sense you see in the region, that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Gulf states really, genuinely don't want America to attack Iraq.

SNOW: So do you think...

AZIZ: But if America attacks Iraq against their own will — America is very powerful, you see — I don't think that they can resist that, but it's not their genuine willingness.

SNOW: So they would support, but they would do it out of fear?

AZIZ: Maybe, maybe. I hope that they won't support, you see, but it's not their willingness.

This is important, you see, when now you speak about the American coalition, as Mr. Bush is telling, "I am going to lead a coalition against Iraq," who is in that coalition? He has the UK, yes. Mr. Blair is voluntarily ready to join Mr. Bush. Nobody else is ready, except Sharon and Blair.

SNOW: You yourself have said you think it would take a miracle to prevent a war.

AZIZ: Yes, because I feel, watching what Washington is planning globally, regionally, and globally, the push toward the war in Washington is so strong, so strong, and it will be a miracle if they don't attack Iraq, you see.

SNOW: So how do you make that miracle happen?

AZIZ: Well, it's up, first of all, to the American people to prevent it, because it's not — it does not serve the American long- range interests. It serves Israel, yes. It serves the greedy interests of the military-industrial complex, yes. It might serve the greedy interests of the oil lobby, yes.

But it's not going to serve the ordinary American citizen, because America will face a strong resistance in Iraq. There will be a great amount of casualties among the American invaders. Iraq will be — America will be more and more hated by the world at large, and particularly by the Arabs and by the Muslims. American interests in different parts of the world, in the Arab world, will be threatened.  

AZIZ: So that does not serve the long interest — the long-range interest of a nation like the United States.

SNOW: You say that your president is deeply loved. If so, why doesn't he come out in public more often?

AZIZ: Saddam Hussein is in great connection with his own people, and the Iraqis know him personally. And he appears in front of the Iraqi people, you see, regularly and at exchanges (ph) that nobody else appears, you seem him then. So Saddam Hussein is not in the closet, you see.

SNOW: You've been close to him longer than anybody in this government. What kind of man is he?

AZIZ: He is a great man.

SNOW: Compare him to the world leaders you have known in your lifetime.

AZIZ: I don't want to compare him with any other person. As I told him — I tell you that he is a great man. He is an honest man. He is an affable man. He is a wise man, a great leader, very honest, very loving to his people. I am very happy and proud of working with Saddam Hussein.

SNOW: So you're not afraid of him?


SNOW: Now, I read a press report, one of your sons was in prison for while?

AZIZ: Yes, he had a legal problem, but he was released, you see. He was acquitted fully.

SNOW: Saddam Hussein has said that if the United States were attacked, once again Iraq would fight back with all its worth. You know you wouldn't win a war.

AZIZ: We know what war is, you see, because we went through war with the United States in 1991, and we know how to live and how to resist, how to work, how to provide basic necessities for our people. We know that already. We have a great practice in that. That's why we are not panicking, you see. We are concerned, but we are not panicking, you see.

SNOW: The International Crisis Group published a study last week indicating that, as a result of being at war — and you've just pointed out that this is a country that's been wracked by war for a lot of the last 20 years — there's growing discontent. People want a chance to have a better standard of living, and they are willing to accept a regime change if it means an end to war.

AZIZ: No, don't fool yourselves. The Iraqis are not going to receive the Americans with flowers. They are going to receive the Americans if they invade the country with bullets, because the Iraqis know that the reason for their suffering is not their government. The reason is the sanctions which were imposed on them by America and the U.K.

SNOW: Predict for me what would happen to the United States if there were an invasion.

AZIZ: We will fight it very capably and fiercely.

SNOW: Do you think there would be a rising of terrorist actions or actions against Americans on American soil?

AZIZ: Certainly, certainly, certainly. People — the hatred against the United States will reach its peak.

SNOW: Now, you have said the past that you have no relations with Al Qaida.

AZIZ: Yes.

SNOW: Why wouldn't you at this point? In many ways, you've got a common enemy in the United States.

AZIZ: We don't — we don't see eye-to-eye to them, you see. We have a different ideology, we have a different policy. They don't belong to us, and we don't belong to them. And we don't — didn't need them in the past for any purpose.

SNOW: Do you still want to have normal relations with the United States?

AZIZ: Yes. If they give us the chance, yes.

SNOW: Do you think you'll get the chance?

AZIZ: If they give us the chance, if they act normally toward us, we'll act normally toward them.


SNOW: That again, Tariq Aziz, the longtime right-hand man for Saddam Hussein.