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UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- With the fall of Baghdad, Iraq's U.N. ambassador declared Wednesday, "the game is over" -- and became the first Iraqi official to concede defeat in the U.S.-led war.
Mohammed Al-Douri expressed hope that the Iraqi people will now be able to live in peace.
"My work now is peace," he told reporters outside his New York residence. "The game is over, and I hope the peace will prevail. I hope the Iraqi people will have a happy life."
Al-Douri was asked what he meant when he said "the game is over." "The war," he responded.
His comments were the first admission by an Iraqi official that coalition forces had overwhelmed Iraqi troops after a three-week campaign.
In an AP interview Wednesday night, Al-Douri said he will continue to work at the United Nations and had no intention of defecting.
"Defecting from who?" he asked. "I think the government has already defected. There is no more Iraqi government to be defected from."
Two weeks ago, during a heated U.N. debate, Al-Douri accused the United States of "criminal aggression" against Iraq and warned the U.S.-led coalition was "about to start a real war of extermination that will kill everything and destroy everything."
He said U.S. and British forces were being "hoodwinked" into believing "that the Iraqi people would receive them with flowers and hugs."
The outburst caused U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte to walk out of the open Security Council meeting, saying he'd "heard enough."
On Wednesday, when asked about Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Al-Douri said he had no "relationship with Saddam."
"I have no communication with Iraq," the ambassador said.
Questioned about Al-Douri's comments, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said: "Well, I would say it wasn't a game, first."
Rumsfeld added that there was still lots of "difficult, dangerous" work ahead in Iraq.
Earlier, Al-Douri told Associated Press Television News: "This is a war, and there will be a winner and someone who is a loser."
When asked what he thought about scenes broadcast Wednesday from Baghdad, he said: "Well I don't know really, I watch the television like you."
He said that because of the war he has been unable to contact any government officials "for a long time."
Al-Douri taught international law at Baghdad University for more than 30 years before becoming a diplomat in 1999, first at the United Nations in Geneva and since early 2001 at U.N. headquarters in New York.
He said he would love to return to teaching but for now plans to remain at the United Nations. "Things will be crystalized one day," he said.
"What I worried about is that things are settled in the country ... so in the future the Iraqi people will live in peace without sanctions, without wars, without suffering. This is my message."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)