LONDON (Reuters) - Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s most prominent deputy Tareq Aziz has accused U.S. President Barack Obama of “leaving Iraq to the wolves” with his planned troop pullout, a British newspaper reported on Thursday.
The Guardian quoted Iraq’s former deputy prime minister as saying the United States would cause the death of Iraq if it continued to withdraw its combat forces.
The newspaper said the interview, from his prison cell in Baghdad, was Aziz’s first since he gave himself up to invading U.S. forces in April 2003. It did not say how it gained access to Aziz.
“I was encouraged when (Obama) was elected president, because I thought he was going to correct some of the mistakes of (former U.S. President George W.) Bush,” Aziz was quoted as saying in an article on the Guardian’s website.
“But Obama is a hypocrite. He is leaving Iraq to the wolves,” said Aziz.
“We are all victims of America and Britain. They killed our country in many ways. When you make a mistake you need to correct a mistake, not leave Iraq to its death,” he said.
Obama vowed this week to make good on his promise to end U.S. combat operations in Iraq by the end of August, despite a political deadlock in Baghdad and a recent surge in militant violence.
Aziz was the face of Saddam’s government in foreign capitals and at the United Nations. He rose to prominence around the time of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the 1991 Gulf War when he was foreign minister.
Last year, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his part in the killings of dozens of merchants in 1992 and to a further seven years for his role in the forced displacement of Kurds from northern Iraq during Saddam’s rule.
U.S. forces recently handed him over to Iraqi prison authorities.
Aziz said Iraq was in a worse state than before the war.
“For 30 years Saddam built Iraq and now it is destroyed. There are more sick than before, more hungry. The people don’t have services. People are being killed every day in the tens, if not hundreds,” said Aziz.
Reporting by Adrian Croft