NEW YORK – An Arab TV network wants to make Baghdad Bob its next star -- if he's alive.
The new Dubai-based al-Arabiya satellite channel is trying to reach Mohammad Saeed Al-Sahhaf (search), the former Iraqi information minister whose daily press briefings during the Iraq war were highlighted by exaggerated statements and outright lies.
Al-Sahhaf, who has not been seen since shortly before Baghdad fell to U.S. forces last month, could be back on TV with one phone call to Ali al-Hadethi, the supervisor of al-Arabiya TV (search).
"We want to benefit from the experience of Mr. Al-Sahhaf and his analysis of the current situation and the future of Iraq," Hadethi told Reuters.
Al-Sahhaf became a cult figure with his daily briefings as he flatly denied what viewers worldwide saw unfolding live on TV.
His multitude of colorful statements, including: "God will roast their stomachs in hell at the hands of Iraqis" and "Our initial assessment is that they will all die," earned him the nicknames Baghdad Bob and Comical Ali.
Hadethi said that Al-Sahhaf was probably forced by the Iraqi regime to lie on international television and wants to give him a chance to tell the truth.
"He was a member of the former regime and had to say what the government wanted. He was repeating what was being given to him without being able to verify the truth," Hadethi said.
Shortly after he disappeared, unverified reports surfaced that Al-Sahhaf had hung himself.
But more recent reports out of Iraq say Al-Sahhaf tried to surrender to U.S. forces this week, but was turned down because he was not on their most wanted deck of 55 playing cards, according to a London-based Arab newspaper.
Yesterday, United States Navy Lieutenant Commander Charles Owens at Central Command in Qatar dismissed the reports.
"If someone connected with the regime offered to turn themselves in, we would take them into custody," Owens told The New York Post.