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 Sunday, 19 January, 2003, 18:29 GMT
Rumsfeld backs exile for Iraqi leaders
Saddam chairs session of Revolutionary Command Council
Saddam's top aides appear to be fiercely loyal
The US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has said he would favour granting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his top aides a "haven" abroad if it could avert a war.

Donald Rumsfeld
I would be delighted if Saddam Hussein threw in the towel and said 'The game's up'

Donald Rumsfeld

Speaking on ABC television, Mr Rumsfeld said he "would recommend that some provision be made so that the senior leadership in that country and their families could be provided haven in some other country".

"And I think that that would be a fair trade to avoid a war," he added.

But he declined to say whether the US administration would be willing to give the Iraqi leadership immunity from prosecution for war crimes.

"I'm not in the Justice Department or in the White House and those are questions for them," he said.

Saddam defiant

Saddam Hussein has given no indication that he would accept exile, and on Friday warned that Iraq would defeat any invader.

Kurdish rebels in Iraq
War on Iraq could spark ethnic conflict

President George Bush has demanded "regime change" in Iraq, accusing Saddam Hussein of repeatedly violating UN resolutions on disarmament.

Mr Rumsfeld told Fox News there was "at least a possibility" that the exile plan for Iraqi leaders could work.

Saudi Arabia is reported to be canvassing Arab support for a plan to oust Saddam Hussein by encouraging Iraqi generals to overthrow him and his inner circle.

The aim is to avoid a United States-led war with Iraq which could spark other wars in the region.

Amnesty

The Saudi plan would require a United Nations resolution declaring an amnesty for the Iraqi officials if they got rid of Saddam, according to diplomats quoted by Time magazine last week.

Such an amnesty would extend to all but 100 or 120 of the most senior ruling Baath Party officials, including his sons, close relatives and others who have long formed part of the ruling circle.

It would be offered immediately prior to the outbreak of war as a signal to Saddam's generals that the time had arrived to save their own skins with a UN-guaranteed amnesty.

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul discussed the plan in Riyadh with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, Time reported.

Mr Gul later confirmed that the topic had been discussed at the meeting.

Egypt has accepted a Turkish invitation to attend a regional summit on the crisis next week, and Saudi Arabia is also likely to attend, according to a senior official in Riyadh.

Syria meanwhile has offered to host a meeting of Arab foreign ministers from countries around Iraq.


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19 Jan 03 | Middle East
19 Jan 03 | Middle East
17 Jan 03 | Middle East
16 Jan 03 | Middle East
07 Jan 03 | Middle East
16 Jan 03 | Politics
16 Jan 03 | Middle East
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