Dubai, July 11 (Reuters): Former Iraqi information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, who earned the nickname “Comical Ali” during the US-led war on Iraq, made a sudden appearance in Abu Dhabi today, saying he might not return to his homeland.
“When I leave I always have in mind that I might not come down this road again, but I hope and pray to God that I can return to Baghdad one day,” he said on Abu Dhabi Television.
Sahaf, 63, became an unlikely media star during the war, winning his stripes as a hero to many in the Arab world while western audiences gasped and chuckled at his bravado.
“Hopefully, all of them (Arab countries) are our nation, but you always hope to return to your homeland with your memories,” said Sahaf, who was shown arriving at the airport in Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital.
Sahaf said he had mixed feelings about leaving Baghdad. “I have the same feeling as any ordinary citizen...It didn’t mean much to me to be a minister. But this time I have really mixed feelings, of sadness and hope,” said Sahaf who was met at the airport by a UAE delegation. Sahaf, who was not on the “most wanted” list, was freed last month after he surrendered to in Baghdad.
In the Arab world, Sahaf gained fame for his colourful use of the Arabic language, using archaic insults to describe the U.S. and British invaders which had Arab commentators debating their meaning and poring over dictionaries.
He branded the British and U.S. leaders“an international gang of criminal bastards”,“blood-sucking bastards”, ignorant imperialists, losers and fools.
In his first interview last month after Baghdad's downfall, also with Abu Dhabi Television, Sahaf defended his press briefings during the conflict.
”The information was correct but the interpretations were not,” he said, adding:“I did my duty up to the last minute.”
The former information minister spawned a mini industry in the West with Sahaf T-shirts, mugs, dolls and videos, and a host of websites poking fun at his rhetorical style.