Published December 18, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq – New pictures of Saddam Hussein in custody were plastered across the front page of Al Mutamar (search) newspaper Thursday, causing a mad rush to the newsstands.
The pictures are of Saddam sitting down in a cell wearing traditional Arab garb talking to Ahmed Chalabi (search), who owns the newspaper and is a member of the Iraqi Governing Council (search). Chalabi is a long-time adversary of Saddam and is an outspoken Iraqi opposition leader who lived for years in the United States, then returned to Baghdad after the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq.
Saddam is shown in the photos sitting on the floor opposite Chalabi, having an animated conversation with him. The picture was taken Sunday when Chalabi and three other council members were taken to see the former dictator.
The newspapers were selling out in Baghdad as people clamored for their copies. And the pictures are causing quite a stir.
"The Iraqi people are eager to see Saddam in a defeated situation; he looks defeated, he looks little compared to his pictures where he is wearing his uniform ... with ranks on his shoulders, acting like he's the king of the universe," said Entifadh Qanbar (search), the spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress. "Now he's just a normal person - not even a normal person but a criminal who's been caught ... and is waiting for his punishment."
The edition disappeared off the newsstands by midday Thursday, with some vendors selling copies for more than double the price. Qanbar said even he couldn't find a copy of the paper.
Qanbar on Thursday talked to Fox News Channel about Chalabi's experience -- and that of the other three council members who visited Saddam in prison after his weekend capture.
"He [Saddam] is basically unrepentant, does not feel remorseful … he did not show any sign that he learned anything," Qanbar said.
He added that Chalabi "couldn't have any type of civilized conversation" with the deposed leader but was able to restrain himself in front of the man who brutalized a nation for so long.
"Dr. Chalabi appeared … in just normal mode," Qanbar said. "Dr. Chalabi's a very unique person and has the ability to control himself. He's a well prepared person for such events, he's seen a lot and the only thing I can tell you is, he's ecstatic, he's very happy Saddam is out of the picture and even the slightest notion Saddam could be put back in power is out of the question."
One council member was so emotional at seeing Saddam that, on his way out of the interview, he said to the Butcher of Baghdad: "May god curse you."
One Iraqi said it's "regrettable" that Saddam is shown in the state he is in and is not good for him or his people. But one newspaper vendor said the pictures please the people who suffered oppression and deprivation under his rule.
Iraqi papers have run the U.S. military's photos of Saddam in custody -- but Iraqis are eager for any look at the man who ruled over them for decades.
Kadhim Abdel Razek, 57, said he couldn't find a single copy of the paper at many stands because it was sold out.
"I would pay double price, even more, to see the man closely," he said. "I just want to see what he is wearing, what shape he is in to compare it to the picture in my mind."
Fox News' Steve Centanni, Liza Porteus and The Associated Press contributed to this report.