February 19, 1996 in Nation/World

General Who Defected Plans To Return To Iraq He Claims Saddam Hussein Is Moving Toward Democracy

Scheherezade Faramarzi Associated Press
 

An Iraqi general whose defection led to new revelations about Iraq’s arms program told a Palestinian newspaper that he plans to return home because President Saddam Hussein is moving toward democracy.

“My country has begun paving the road toward comfort and confidence,” Lt. General Hussein Kamel Al-Majid, the former head of Iraq’s weapons programs, said in Sunday’s edition of the Al-Ayyam daily newspaper.

“I only hope what is taking place in Iraq is not just a passing current,” he said in the interview, conducted in Amman, Jordan.

He did not say when he might go back.

Al-Majid defected to Jordan in August with his brother, Col. Saddam Kamel Al-Majid, deputy head of the Iraqi president’s palace security, and their wives, both daughters of the Iraqi leader.

Information he provided on weapons forced Baghdad to hand over vast amounts of data about its clandestine efforts to produce chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and long-range missiles to U.N. weapons inspectors.

Al-Majid said he was in contact with the Iraqi government: “Baghdad makes contacts and we respond.”

He said he expected the U.N. Security Council to allow Iraq to sell its oil. The Security Council has refused to lift the sanctions, imposed when Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990, until it is satisfied that Iraq has dismantled its program to build weapons of mass destruction.

On Sunday, U.N. and Iraqi negotiators reached a tentative agreement on key issues in oil-for-food talks. The agreement, still snagged on a number of unresolved issues, would for the first time let Iraq sell oil to buy food and medicine.

“Iraq is taking a step toward accepting the Security Council resolution and toward a democratic path and holding elections,” Al-Majid told Al-Ayyam.

“For these reasons, my return and the return of many who seek an improvement in the situation, is normal.

He denied that his decision to return to Iraq was made under pressure from Jordan’s King Hussein.

On Sunday, the king allowed members of the Iraqi opposition movement, the Iraqi National Accord, to open an office in Amman.


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