'US had no Iraq WMD intelligence' Egypt's ElBaradei claims
Washington had no intelligence on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, according to Egypt's former Vice President Mohammed ElBaradei, during the second-part of a highly-charged interview with al-Araby TV.
The exiled Egyptian former minister - who was head of the International Atomic Energy Agency at the time - said that former French President Jacques Chirac told him the US would be "breaching international law" if it went to war with Iraq.
ElBaradei opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq and wanted weapons experts to be given more time for inspections.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq - based on US intelligence assurances that there were hidden weapons of mass destruction in the country - led to the downfall of Saddam Hussein.
It also ignited a bloody civil war that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found.
During his first interview in three years, ElBaradei claimed war could have been easily avoided. He also said that the US knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in the first place but were fixated on war Saddam Hussein, according to conversations with former French President Jacques Chirac and his intel briefings.
"You do not know Iraq," Chirac allegedly said during a meeting between ElBaradei and the head of French security services prior to the war.
"This is the land of Harun al-Rashid [legendary Abbasid caliph], you can destroy it within a short period of time but we will require an entire generation to rebuild it," Chirac was quoted as saying.
The Egyptian politician - and former head of the IAEA - described the French leader as a "respectful man" who had no intention of going to war with an Arab country.
"In all honesty, France and Germany held an honourable position during negotiations surrounding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," he told al-Araby TV.
The leading Egyptian opposition figure said he and Hans Blix - the former chief of the UN monitoring, verification and inspection commission - had travelled between the UN security council and Baghdad relaying concerns surrounding the lack of evidence of weapons of mass destruction and trying to prevent war.
"We were running between meetings with the security council, Baghdad and world leaders and told them we cannot see any evidence for the presence of the weapons of mass destructions but they insisted and were adamant on going to war," he said.
"We told Chirac the US is refusing to share intelligence surrounding the weapons in Iraq," ElBaradei said.
Then came a bomb shell by the then-French president. "Do you know why they don't want to tell you anything? Chirac told ElBaradei. "Because they have no intelligence in the first place.
"If the US launch this war they would be breaching international law," Chirac told the former Egyptian diplomat.
The comments were made during the veteran Egyptian politician's first interview in three years, when he resigned from government and went into exile in Switzerland.
Part one of the interview was broadcast on al-Araby TV on 7 January, while part two was released on Saturday evening.
Among other topics discussed by ElBaradei and the Iran-US nuclear deal.
Read also: Part one - Egypt's ElBaradei breaks silence with first TV interview.
He said negotiations on Iran's nuclear programme were not pursued by George W. Bush because Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was "a leader who wants to destroy Israel", Bush once said.
ElBaradei also revealed that former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi spent millions of dollars to build nuclear facilities "and then went and notified the US of his programme".
The first episode of the interview sparked outrage among Egypt's leadership and prompted calls for ElBaradei to be stripped of his citizenship.
"We have to take the nationality away from any traitor or agent. We have the right to do that to any dog who tries to break up his homeland," said one Twitter user.
But ElBaradei defended his decision to speak to the press saying that what Egypt and the Arab world needed now more than anything was dialogue.
"It's become the duty of every person to speak… and to attempt to help even if only by one percent, because the Arab world is in crisis and has reached a stage in which it is destroying itself."
ElBaradei, 74, returned to Cairo several months before the toppling of Egyptian dictator President Hosni Mubarak in Spring 2011 after years of living between his country of birth and Europe.
During the short tenure of Egypt's first democratically-elected President Mohamad Morsi, ElBaradei helped co-found the National Front for Salvation, a coalition of 35 groups that opposed the Islamist government.
ElBaradei served as Egypt's vice president for a short period between July and August 2013. He resigned from the post after Egypt's military government forcibly removed pro-Morsi protesters, killing over a thousand of them.