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Transcript Of Minister Farrakhan's Appearance On CNN's "Late Edition"

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan just visited Iraq for several days. Earlier today, I spoke exclusively with Minister Farrakhan from the capital of Zimbabwe, Harare.


BLITZER: Minister Farrakhan, thanks for joining us. Tell our viewers in the United States and around the world why you went to Baghdad.

LOUIS FARRAKHAN, NATION OF ISLAM: First, Wolf, we saw the carnage going on on the West Bank and in Israel and we wanted to go to see if we could do something to stop the carnage, and aid in the process for peace.

We also heard our president say that it was the policy of his administration to unseat Saddam Hussein, and even giving instructions that he should be assassinated. This concerned us greatly.

So we went to the Middle East to encourage Muslim leaders to speak with one voice and persuade if they could President Bush not to do this, because I believe personally even if America won such a war, America would lose great capital politically in the world by such an action.

BLITZER: You met with high-ranking Iraqi officials, but apparently you didn't get a chance to meet with President Saddam Hussein. Why wouldn't he meet with you?

FARRAKHAN: Oh, I didn't question that. Sometimes, Wolf, when you meet the vice president you're really meeting the president. If you meet his ministers of government, and they all are saying to you the things that he would probably say had you met with him, I felt perfectly contented that by meeting with most of the ministers of his government and meeting with his vice president that, in fact, I met with him, and I knew his aim and purpose and his feeling from what I heard from his ministers and his vice president.

BLITZER: But you know many are now saying that Saddam Hussein snubbed you by not receiving you personally.

FARRAKHAN: I can't control what people say. I don't think that I was snubbed. I was treated, actually, as a head of state. Members of government met me and my party when we arrived. We had a police and secret service escort to our hotel. We were escorted everywhere we went with three or four motorcycles, police escort.

So I was treated as if I were a head of state. So I don't feel that I, nor those in my party, were snubbed. We felt that we were treated with great honor and great respect.

BLITZER: As you know, Minister, as part of the cease-fire agreement in 1991 ending the Gulf War, the Iraqi leader agreed to international weapons inspections of his potential use of weapons of mass destruction. It's now been almost four years since he kicked those inspectors out. The U.S. and the rest of the world is anxious to see those inspectors come back in. Did you raise that issue and tell the Iraqi leadership that if they don't comply there could be a war?

FARRAKHAN: Sir, while we were there, there was a German man who was a member of the UNSCOM team, a Mr. von Sponeck, and he went and visited some of those sites and, according to the news that we heard just a few days ago, he said that there were no weapons of mass destruction. This is part of the negotiation that was going on in Vienna with the foreign minister and Secretary General Kofi Annan when we went into the area.

But, of course, we would urge them to open their country to inspection, but what they want is an end to sanctions. If they opened up to inspectors and you found no weapon of mass destruction, will the sanctions end? That is the question that they want answered, and we want it answered as well.

BLITZER: But the first obligation, isn't it, sir, is that the Iraqis must comply with the U.N. resolutions, the cease-fire agreement allowing unfettered access to weapons of mass destruction potential in Iraq.

FARRAKHAN: Over seven years of these inspectors being in Iraq, looking for weapons of mass destruction and finding none, whatever they found they were shown by the Iraqi government.

I'm not here as a defender of Iraq in that way. What I am a defender of is the principle of justice and fairness. Iraq has suffered, since 1991, the loss of 1.6 million of its citizens. The United States and the United Kingdom, without U.N. permission, established no-fly zones in the north and south of Iraq, and have bombed Iraq at will for the last 11 years. It is time for this to end.

And I think, the more that this goes on, the more the world turns toward Saddam Hussein and against the United States of America, the U.N., and its policies.

BLITZER: But couldn't it end, as the Bush administration insists, simply by Saddam Hussein complying with the U.N. resolutions and the weapons inspection teams?

FARRAKHAN: I have heard members of the Bush administration say that whether he allowed weapons inspectors or not, they wanted a regime change, and they were going to pursue that. And that is our petition to President Bush, to the government of the United States of America, that this is not showing America as the number one, leading superpower in the world, that you should take the might of your armed forces and use it against the government and people of Iraq just to get rid of a man that you say or call a dictator.

This is not your business. This is the business of the Iraqi people. If they don't want Saddam Hussein, let them put him out or take him down. But it is not the right of the American government to interfere in the sovereign affairs of another nation.

It's Saddam Hussein today. Where does it end? Is it Gadhafi tomorrow, Assad in Syria the day after, Fidel Castro the day after that? Anyone that doesn't agree with America or America disagrees with, do you have the right to assassinate such a leader, overthrow such a leader? Not in today's climate.

This is the wrong approach of our government, and I wish that our president had better advice, that he would make friends in the Arab and Muslim world, and not increase the distrust and the hatred that presently exists.

BLITZER: Minister Farrakhan, we only have a few seconds before the satellite goes down. Who paid for -- who sponsored your trip to Iraq?

FARRAKHAN: My trip was sponsored by the Call Society, which is a religious society in Libya, and they are the ones that are responsible for my journey.

BLITZER: And how are you feeling? Because we know you were suffering from, I believe, cancer not that long ago.

FARRAKHAN: Well, sir, I would feel so much better if the government of the United States of America would not seek to make Saddam Hussein a trophy for the reelection of President Bush.

BLITZER: All right.

FARRAKHAN: Saddam Hussein is not responsible for the collapse of Enron and thousands of...

BLITZER: All right. Minister Farrakhan, unfortunately the satellite is about to go down. We have to leave it right there.

FARRAKHAN: ... American citizens losing their life savings (UNINTELLIGIBLE). BLITZER: I want to thank you so much for joining us. Unfortunately the satellite is going down. Thanks for joining us today, and we'll have you back.


Monday, July 15, 2002

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