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'Saddam, US had pre-war deal'
24/06/2004 16:52 - (SA)
Moscow - Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein cut a deal with the United States before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, former Russian prime minister Yevgeny Primakov said in an interview published on Thursday.
"There was an understanding with the Americans, as paradoxical as it may seem," Primakov told the Russian daily Gazeta in a lengthy interview.
"Why weren't the bridges of the Tigris blown up when the American tanks approached Baghdad? Why weren't Iraqi aviation and tanks used, and where are they now?" asked Primakov, a former head of the Russian secret service and a specialist in Arab affairs who was formerly on good terms with Saddam.
"Why was there an immediate ceasefire? Why was there practically no resistance a year ago?" he added.
Primakov, who now heads Russia's chamber of trade and industry, also cast doubt on the authenticity of footage of Saddam's reported capture that circled the world on December 14.
"They showed two soldiers with guns with palm trees in the background near the hole (where Saddam was reportedly hiding). At that time of year, date palms are never in bloom," he said.
"Finally, any man can tell you that such a long beard (as Saddam had when he was reportedly caught) could not grow in seven months," he said.
"All evidence suggests that Saddam surrendered earlier and the story of the hole was invented later," he said.
Primakov, who was also Russian foreign minister, made two secret trips to Iraq at the request of President Vladimir Putin, shortly before the invasion by US and British troops.
Edited by Anthea Jonathan