CAIRO – A former top deputy of Saddam Hussein has said he wants good ties with the United States, but only after U.S. troops leave and the Shiite-led government is toppled, according to an audiotape aired Tuesday.
Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who is now reportedly a powerful funder of Sunni insurgents in Iraq, spoke in an audiotape broadcast Tuesday on Al-Jazeera television. Al-Douri, a fugitive with a $10 million bounty on his head, has not been seen in public since the fall of Saddam's regime in April 2003.
The recording surfaced hours before President Barak Obama arrived in Iraq. It comes at the time of a spike in violence in Iraq that the government has blamed on members of Saddam's former ruling Baath Party, along with the Al Qaeda terror group.
In the audiotape, al-Douri urges his followers to topple the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki after an expected U.S. withdrawal from the country.
"Fight them with all possible means in your field of jihad," or holy war, al-Douri said. He said al-Maliki's government is in its "last gasps."
After al-Maliki's fall, a new Iraqi government will be ready to "build the best of relations with the American people and the new administration" of President Barack Obama, al-Douri said.
Saddam Hussein's former deputy has vowed that loyalists to the deposed dictator will continue fighting until the U.S. withdraws from Iraq, according to an interview published Monday.
Al-Douri, whose whereabouts is unknown, is believed to play an important role in financing Sunni insurgents, though little is known about how directly he leads fighters on the ground. Saddam loyalists are thought to participate in a number of insurgent groups that have carried out attacks in the past, particularly the Islamic Army of Iraq, Ansar al-Sunna and Muhammad's Army.
Meanwhile, Iraq's Minister of National Dialogue Akram al-Hakim arrived in Cairo in the first leg of a regional tour for talks on national reconciliation. Al-Hakim is expected to meet with former Baathists in exile to try to lure them to return to Iraq and participate in the government.