Byline: PAUL GILFEATHER in Baghdad and GARY JONES
SADDAM Hussein has told Tony Benn in an extraordinary face-to-face TV interview that Iraq has NO weapons of mass destruction and NO links to al-Qaeda.
Looking clearly edgy the tyrant denied hindering UN weapons inspectors, saying it was in Iraq's interest to help them.
But he suggested he was resigned to war, accusing the US of seeking a pretext to destroy Iraq so it could secure oil supplies as part of its "wish to control the world".
Mr Benn, who met Saddam before the 1991 Gulf War, travelled to Baghdad hoping he could help avert conflict with the US and Britain.
Sitting in one of his palaces in Baghdad, Saddam told the peace campaigner and former Labour MP: "As I have said on many occasions, Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction whatsoever.
"These weapons do not come in small pills that you can hide in your pocket. It's easy to work out if Iraq has them or not."
To Mr Benn's question "Do you have links with al-Qaeda?", he replied: "If we had a relationship with al-Qaeda, and we believed in that relationship, we wouldn't be ashamed to admit it.
"Therefore, I would like to tell you directly that we have no relationship with al-Qaeda."
The two-hour interview, filmed on Sunday, was conducted for new TV station Arab television and broadcast yesterday.
Leaning back in a gold chair and gesturing, Saddam - who refused to read a set of prepared questions - said: "It is in our interest to facilitate their (UN weapons inspectors) mission to find the truth.
"The question is does the other side want to get to the same conclusion or are they looking for a pretext for aggression?"
In a reference to a UN call on Iraq to disarm WMD or face …