Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi, Saddam Hussein's science adviser, is believed to be the first of 55 wanted regime figures to surrender to coalition forces.
April 13, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Saddam Hussein's science adviser surrendered to U.S. military authorities Saturday, becoming the first of the 55 most wanted Iraqi figures to go into coalition custody.
Despite the surrender, Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi insisted that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and that the war was unjustified.
Al-Saadi arranged his surrender with the help of the German television network ZDF, which filmed him leaving his Baghdad villa with his German wife, Helga, and presenting himself to a U.S. warrant officer, who escorted him away.
Al-Saadi told ZDF that he had spent the war in his cellar and emerged after he saw a British TV report that he was being sought. He said he had no information on what happened to Hussein and repeated his assertion, made often in news conferences before the U.S.-led invasion, that Iraq was free of weapons of mass destruction.
U.S. Central Command in Qatar confirmed that al-Saadi surrendered.
The elegant, British-educated al-Saadi is believed to be the first of the 55 regime figures sought by the coalition -- in the deck of playing cards with the wanted officials' pictures issued by the U.S. military, he was the seven of diamonds -- to enter custody.
He had been wanted because he was a special weapons adviser to Hussein, overseeing Iraq's chemical program. He also is believed to have in-depth knowledge of other weapons programs.
He was among the key figures who worked with U.N. weapons inspectors and often spoke for the Iraqi government during news conferences between the resumption of inspections in November and their end last month.
After Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N. Security Council in February, al-Saadi suggested that monitored Iraqi conversations Powell played were fabricated, defector informants were unreliable and satellite photographs "proved nothing."
Al-Saadi also defended the regime's longtime practice of insisting Iraqi officials be present during meetings between U.N. weapons inspectors and Iraqi scientists, saying that otherwise the scientists' remarks might be distorted.
"I know the programs for weapons of mass destruction and have always told the truth about these old programs, and only the truth," he told ZDF.
"You will see, the future will show it. And nothing else will come out after the end of the war because I know the program, together with my colleagues, because we have always worked together and nobody intervened. Nobody ever told me what I should say."