CAIRO, Egypt – Iraq's U.N. ambassador during the dying days of Saddam Hussein's regime now says that his government deserved to be overthrown and that he would accept a trial for the former dictator.
But Mohammed al-Douri (search) argued in a rare television interview being broadcast Monday that the Iraqis -- and not the U.S.-led coalition -- should have been the ones to oust Saddam.
Al-Douri also told BBC World that right up until the last moment, Saddam's government did not believe the United States and Britain would invade Iraq.
"It seems to me that they never believed that the war will be started," he said.
"Naji Sabri (the foreign minister), he told me: 'Don't be anxious. This war will never happen.'"
Al-Douri said he advised the foreign ministry in Baghdad (search) the threat of war was serious and he still cannot explain why they refused to accept it.
The BBC asked the former ambassador about the mass graves of hundreds of executed Iraqis that have been uncovered since the fall of Saddam.
"Those are Iraqi people, my brothers, so I regret that and I hope that all people responsible for that, for these graves have to be presented to the trial, to the judgment and to be judged by Iraqi people, not by British or American," al-Douri said.
Interviewer Tim Sebastian asked him if he was now prepared to condemn the regime that he served.
Al-Douri said he has always -- not just now -- condemned "any kind of killing in Iraq or outside Iraq. I am a human being."
Pressed about Saddam's responsibility in the deaths of thousands of people, al-Douri said: "If he were judged, I would accept the trial and the legitimacy of the court."
Al-Douri was the first senior Iraqi official to acknowledge that the war was lost after U.S. troops overran Baghdad on April 9. He has not returned to Baghdad, contrary to orders issued to all Iraqi ambassadors last month, and is believed to be in the United Arab Emirates (search). The BBC said the interview took place in the Gulf region, but gave no details.
He said he thought people were glad Saddam was gone, "but they are not glad that the Americans and British are there."
"The regime is over and now we have to tackle another problem, the American and British presence in Iraq as a colonialist."
Asked if Saddam's regime deserved to be toppled, al-Douri said: "Not by you, but by the Iraqi people."
During his time as Iraq's U.N. ambassador, al-Douri repeatedly insisted that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. In the BBC interview, he largely stuck to that claim, saying the government had told him these weapons were destroyed in 1991-92.
"I would right now believe that the Iraqi government was not lying, and we are now waiting for the American and British to present evidence on these weapons of mass destruction."
The former ambassador has largely stayed out of the public eye since abandoning his U.N. position. His appearance on the BBC interview program HARDTalk came more than a month after a live chat with Dubai-based al-Arabiya television.
Al-Douri comes from al-Dour, a town 80 miles north of Baghdad and only 10 miles south of Tikrit, Saddam's hometown. Its inhabitants tend to belong to Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority, like Saddam, and they benefited from his regime. Saddam's deputy on the Revolutionary Command Council came from al-Dour.