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Thursday, 2 August, 2001, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
Uday Hussein denies conversion
Saddam Hussein (l) and Uday
Uday has a reputation as a playboy in Iraq
The eldest son of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has denied claims he has converted to Shia Islam.

Western press reports alleged Uday Hussein made the move in order to win support among Iraq's majority Shia against his younger brother, Qusay.

I am a Sunni Muslim, like my father and family. I have no intention of converting

Uday Hussein
However, Uday dismissed the claims in Iraq's daily Babel newspaper, which he owns.

"I am a Sunni Muslim, like my father and family. I have no intention of converting," the paper quotes Uday as saying.

Analysts suggested Uday wanted to align himself with the Shia as part of a power struggle with Qusay to succeed his father.

They say Uday is resentful of his brother's growing power.

Saddam Hussein and Qusay
Qusay (right) has overall control in day-to-day affairs in Iraq
Thirty-four-year-old Qusay, who is two years younger than Uday, was recently appointed Saddam Hussein's deputy in charge of the Iraqi armed forces and he is said to already have control running day-to-day affairs in Iraq.

Observers say Qusay's elevation is a sign he is being groomed by Saddam to eventually take over the leadership in Iraq.

There have been frequent reports that Saddam, who is 64, is seriously ill with cancer.

Assassination attempt

For many years, Uday was the heir apparent, but five years ago he lost favour with his father in a bloody family rift that led to the defection of the Iraqi leader's two sons-in-law to Jordan.

Uday is well known among Iraqis as a playboy whose extravagant lifestyle and violent reputation has won him little popular support.

Iraqi opposition groups say Qusay's was given additional powers after Uday was partly paralysed in an assassination attempt in 1996.

Shia Muslims account for about 55% of the Iraqi population, but Sunni Muslims dominate official positions.

See also:

30 Jul 01 | Middle East
Saddam's son 'becomes Shia'
01 Dec 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Saddam steps up defiance
15 Jan 01 | Middle East
Gulf War: Iraq's legacy of pain
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