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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hussein Suggests a Debate With Bush

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Saddam Hussein indicated he will disobey UN orders to destroy his Al Samoud 2 missiles and proposed in interview excerpts being aired Tuesday that U.S. President George W. Bush debate him on live television.

The White House said the offer wasn't serious.

In the three-hour interview in the Iraq capital, CBS television quoted Hussein as belittling an order from chief weapons inspector Hans Blix to begin destroying the Al Samoud 2 system by the end of the week.

"Iraq is allowed to prepare proper missiles, and we are committed to that," the network quoted him as saying.

Asked whether the Al Samoud 2 missiles are "proper," Hussein was quoted as replying: "We do not have missiles that go beyond the proscribed range."

Other recent visitors, however, have said Hussein appeared eager to cooperate fully with the UN inspectors in a bid to avert a U.S.-led war.

Those include former U.S. Attorney-General Ramsey Clark and former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov.

"He's thinking he'll do anything that he reasonably can -- that is honorable and protective of the sovereignty of his people -- to prevent war," Clark said after his meeting.

He said Hussein sees little incentive to cooperate with the inspectors, however, because he believes Bush is set on war.

"What he thinks is, no matter what Iraq's performance is, the president will attack," Clark said.

Bush won't be satisfied even if Hussein does destroy the missiles, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

He said stockpiles of sarin and VX nerve agent were still missing.

"This is not about public relations. This is about protecting the lives of the American people," Fleischer said.

"If Saddam Hussein destroys the missiles that he said he never had ... you've got to wonder what other weapons does he have?"

Iraq did declare the missiles in its 12,000-page report to the United Nations in December.

In the CBS interview, conducted by anchor Dan Rather, Hussein challenged Bush to a televised debate via satellite linkup, along the lines of those in a U.S. presidential campaign, the network said.

"I am ready to conduct a direct dialogue -- a debate -- with your president," CBS quoted Hussein as saying. "I will say what I want and he will say what he wants."

CBS said it planned to broadcast excerpts of the interview Tuesday and the entire interview Wednesday.

Fleischer said Hussein's comments on the missiles constituted "open defiance" of the United Nations and said Bush wasn't taking the debate offer seriously.

The United Nations says the order is nonnegotiable, but Blix said he was sending his chief deputy, Demetrius Perricos, to Baghdad to discuss the demand.

The weapons inspectors visited four missile facilities Tuesday, according to Iraq's Information Ministry. They also went to an explosives plant, a pesticide factory and an agricultural college.

U.S. warplanes, meanwhile, bombed Iraqi surface-to-surface missile systems in northern Iraq after Iraqi forces moved the missiles into a U.S.-patrolled "no-fly" zone, the U.S. military said.