Saddam to judge: 'I am the president of Iraq'

The following is a transcript, translated from Arabic by the Associated Press, of Saddam Hussein's exchange with chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman when asked to enter a plea on charges Monday in his trial. Abdel-Rahman: What is your answer. Are you guilty or innocent? (Saddam stands and takes podium to talk.) You admit or you deny. A short answer. Afterwards we'll give you the opportunity. Not now. Saddam: When afterward? Abdel-Rahman: Afterwards. We'll give you a complete opportunity, a full day, to talk. But now we want a short answer. Saddam: I can't give a short answer. After all this trial and all these witnesses, and a long charges list, answer yes or no before the public opinion. The public opinion has heard… Abdel-Rahman (interrupts): That's not important. Just a moment. Saddam: For me, it doesn't shake a hair on my head. But what is important to me is what is important to the Iraqi people ... I cannot respond to you to such a long charges list with a yes or no. Abdel-Rahman: We didn't tell you to give a speech. We want a response, guilty or innocent. Saddam: Your honor, you gave a long report. That report can't be summed up by saying guilty or not. Your honor is now before Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq. Abdel-Rahman: You are a defendant. Saddam: That is your opinion. I am the president of Iraq by the will of the Iraqis, and I remain president of Iraq up to this moment. I respect the will of the Iraqi people and I will defend it with honor in the face of the collaborators and in the face of America. Abdel-Rahman: We will record that you denied the accusations. Saddam: I do not recognize the collaborators that they brought to appoint a court and put forward a law with retroactive effect against the head of state, who is protected by the constitution and the law. I cannot respond to you, Mr. Raouf, on a long report with just the word yes or no. If you give me an opportunity… Abdel-Rahman (interrupting): I will give the opportunity ... But now for procedural purposes, we will write it down. Sit down. The defendant has responded by denying after the charges were read to him.