Bush, Blair Tell Iraqis Their 'Nightmare' Ending
Thursday, April 10, 2003; 9:51 AM
By Andrew Cawthorne and Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) - The U.S. and British leaders launched a new TV service into Iraq on Thursday with a pledge to Iraqis that they would control their own future once the "nightmare" of Saddam Hussein was over.
"You deserve better than tyranny and corruption and torture chambers... Your nation will soon be free," President Bush said in a pre-recorded message.
"The nightmare that Saddam Hussein has brought to your nation will soon be over," he added.
The messages from Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were being beamed into Iraq via a new Arabic TV network, produced by the U.S. and UK governments, called Nahwa Al-Hurrieh or "Toward Freedom."
Due to be launched Thursday afternoon with the messages, it will be broadcast for one hour a day from a U.S. Air Force plane flying over the country, providing news and "coalition public service announcements," British officials said.
The leaders' joint initiative was a bid to reassure ordinary Iraqis of Anglo-American intentions and hasten the full collapse of Saddam's power structure. They repeated familiar lines on Saddam and his alleged of weapons of mass destruction.
"Saddam Hussein's regime is collapsing and the years of brutality, oppression and fear are coming to an end," Blair said. "We did not want this war but in refusing to give up his weapons of mass destruction Saddam gave us no choice but to act. Now that the war has begun, it will be seen through to the end."
The two men recorded their messages two days ago at a summit in Northern Ireland.
Aware of suspicions throughout the Arab world of American and British "imperialist" pretensions, they promised troops would leave Iraq as soon as a new government was set up to replace an interim authority due to take over from the military.
FUTURE BELONGS TO YOU
"Iraq will not be run by Britain or by the United States, or by the United Nations. It will be run by you," Blair said.
Bush added: "You will be free, free to build a better life instead of building more palaces for Saddam and his sons...The government of Iraq and the future of your country will soon belong to you."
Major General Victor Renuart told a briefing at Central Command in Qatar U.S.-led forces are looking for Iraqis to start a new radio and television operation in the country.
"We're working very aggressively to find the contacts with the country and within the city who would like to begin an Iraqi broadcast network...to allow free Iraqis to begin to broadcast their own TV and radio throughout the country," he said.
Blair and Bush promised UK-U.S. forces would help maintain law and order, deliver aid and respect Iraq's religious diversity.
"We will respect your great religious traditions, whose principles of equality and compassion are essential to Iraq's future," Bush said.
Blair added: "Our forces are friends and liberators of the Iraqi people, not your conquerors and they will not stay in Iraq a day longer than is necessary."
The British leader acknowledged many Iraqis feared a repeat of the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War when Washington urged them to rise up against Saddam but did not back them with troops.
"You thought Saddam's rule was being ended, but he stayed, and you suffered. That will not happen this time. This regime will be gone and ended," he said.
Blair promised money from Iraqi oil would be kept for Iraqis, and lambasted Saddam's abuse of resources.
"Saddam Hussein and his regime plundered your nation's wealth. While many of you live in poverty, they lived lives of luxury. Saddam became one of the richest men in the world, his money stolen from you the Iraqi people," he said.
OPPOSITION, AID, ARTS
Fronted by Iraqi journalists, the content for the new U.S.-UK TV service has been agreed following discussions with the Iraqi exile community in London, British officials said.
The first broadcast will include an interview with an opposition group, a report on humanitarian aid, and a feature on Iraqi arts.
It will initially be available to people in central Iraq including Baghdad, before being extended nationwide on frequencies previously used by Iraqi TV.
Leaflets have been dropped to inform Iraqis of the new station, and it has also been publicized on a U.S.-backed radio channel which has been broadcasting in Iraq since March 20.
The service will last until a "proper, free and open" media can be established, a British foreign office spokesman said.