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The BBC's John Simpson
"There may well be something in it"
 real 28k

Sharif Ali, Iraqi National Congress
"There is a very high likelihood that he was taken ill"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 3 January, 2001, 23:38 GMT
Iraq denies Saddam stroke
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein was shown chairing the meeting
Iraqi television has broadcast film of President Saddam Hussein at work, following reports that he was in intensive care after suffering a severe stroke.

The main item on state television's early evening news showed the Iraqi leader, apparently fit and well, chairing a cabinet meeting.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
The Iraqi president seemed in a bullish mood on New Year's Eve
An Iraqi opposition group based in Syria had reported that the 63-year-old president had been taken ill after attending a military parade on Sunday.

The Iraqi information ministry has described the story as ridiculous.

"These press reports are stupid and do not even merit a response," a spokesman for Iraq's Information Ministry told reporters in Baghdad.

'Severe stroke'

On Monday, Damascus-based opposition group, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, issued a statement saying Saddam Hussein had suffered a "severe stroke" the previous day.

Saddam Hussein
1937: Born Takrit, central Iraq
1963-68: Jailed for involvement with opposition Ba'ath party
1979: Becomes head of state
1980: Invades Iran; eight year war ends inconclusively
1990: Invades Kuwait; driven out in Gulf War of 1991
2000: Unconfirmed reports of poor health
A BBC diplomatic editor said that the opposition was reliable at reporting facts on the ground in Iraq, but less skilled at analysis.

He suggested that the opposition might be trying to guess what was going on based on accurate but partial knowledge of the facts.

Another Iraqi source told the London-based, Saudi-owned newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat that the president had collapsed after suffering a stroke and was taken to a hospital in Baghdad where he was put under intensive care.

Military parade

The source, who asked to remain anonymous, said Saddam Hussein became ill during a banquet after a military parade to mark New Year.

During the march-past - the largest in 10 years - the president repeatedly stood up and fired over 140 rounds into the air from a rifle one-handedly.

The Iraqi information ministry cited the president's appearance at that parade as proof of his health - despite the alleged stroke taking place afterwards.

Unclear succession

It is not clear who would succeed the Iraqi leader if he were to die in office.

Saddam Hussein's older son Uday
Saddam's son Uday survived an attack in 1996
He has two sons, Uday and Qusay, both of whom hold influential positions in the Iraqi establishment.

Elder son Uday survived an assassination attempt in 1996, and is believed to have recovered from severe injuries.

His younger son Qusay was reportedly put in charge of a family council last year when rumours of the president's allegedly poor health began to circulate.

In September, there were unconfirmed reports that Saddam Hussein was suffering from lymph cancer and preparing to undergo chemotherapy.

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See also:

04 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Doubt cast over Saddam images
01 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Bush faces Iraq dilemma
17 Dec 00 | Middle East
Iraq dismisses Powell's threats
04 Sep 00 | Middle East
Saddam 'stricken with lymph cancer'
Saddam Hussein: his rise to power
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