Dubai, April 29 (Reuters): An Arab television network said today it wants to give a job to former Iraqi information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, whose colourful daily briefings during the US-led invasion won him a cult following.
Ali al-Hadethi, supervisor of the Dubai-based al-Arabiya satellite channel, said Sahaf, who does not figure on Washington’s list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis, was welcome to join the network immediately as a commentator and analyst. Hadethi said he did not know the former minister’s whereabouts and asked him to contact Arabiya to take up his job. “We want to benefit from the experience of Mr Sahaf and his analysis of the current situation and the future of Iraq,” he said, without giving details of the job package.
A London-based Arabic newspaper reported, meanwhile, that Sahaf, dubbed “Comical Ali” for his eccentric denials that Iraqi forces were being overrun, was now holed up with his aunt in Baghdad and wanted the Americans to arrest and protect him. The report said Sahaf had left the northern city of Mosul four days ago and was staying at his aunt’s house in the capital’s Palestine Street.
It quoted a representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) who said that US troops had refused to take Sahaf into custody because he did not figure on the American most-wanted list, but that negotiations were continuing.
Arabiya television executive Hadethi, asked about Sahaf’s exaggerated statements at his daily briefings, said he “was a member of the former regime and had to say what the government wanted. He was repeating what was being given to him without being able to verify the truth”.
Hadethi said his network was already using Saddam’s former UN ambassador, Mohammed Aldouri, as an analyst in Dubai.
Sahaf, with his trademark beret and standing behind a forest of microphones, quickly built up a worldwide following as his daily briefings departed more and more from objective reality. A website, welovetheiraqiinformationminister.com, sprang up only to be forced offline by a rush of global interest that attracted up to 4,000 hits a second.