Web site pokes fun at Iraqi minister

/ Source: The Associated Press

He became a celebrity of the Iraq war with his outlandish denials and boundless optimism. Now Iraq’s Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf has become a star on the Internet.

FANS HAVE SET up a Web site (www.welovetheiraqiinformationminister.com) dedicated to Sahaf, featuring his more outrageous quotes and a collage of photos.

Donning his trademark beret and cheeky smile, the jovial minister is pictured in various poses before he disappeared this week as U.S.-led troops tightened their grip on Baghdad.

Sahaf became a cult figure on television with his daily briefings, appearing from behind a sea of microphones as he condemned the American “infidels” and often flatly denied what viewers around the world saw unfolding on their TV screens.

In one of the great moments in PR history, Sahaf confidently boasted that Baghdad was safe and the invaders would be slaughtered, even as U.S. tanks rumbled down streets nearby.

“The infidels are committing suicide by the hundreds on the gates of Baghdad,” he told reporters, despite Iraqi troops blatantly running for cover on the other side of the river.

Listing his “all time greats,” the Sahaf Web site includes: “God will roast their stomachs in hell at the hands of Iraqis” and “Our initial assessment is that they will all die.”

Set up by five American Internet and media entrepreneurs, the Web site also suggests actor Sydney Pollack should play the minister in a Hollywood movie.

Internet message boards have also been packed with debates over the celebrity minister’s unconventional PR techniques.

One writer imagined Sahaf explaining a troubled economy: “We do not have economic problems! These infidels, the waste of maggots they are, are deceiving us with facts and their charts! This graph they showed us was upside down!,” the posting read.

© 2003 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters.