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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 March, 2003, 21:09 GMT
Bahrain offers asylum to Saddam
Saddam Hussein
President Saddam said he would rather die than go into exile
Bahrain has offered asylum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in a last-ditch attempt to avert a US-led war on Iraq, Bahrain's official BNA news agency reported.

The offer - by Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa - came just hours before the expiry of the US ultimatum (0100 GMT on Thursday) to the Iraqi leader and his two sons to leave the country or face war.

"The Bahraini ruler said Bahrain... is ready to host Iraqi President Saddam Hussein if he wants to reside there with all dignity," BNA said.

President Hussein had already rejected the US ultimatum, saying he would rather die than go into exile.

'National responsibility'

BNA said that King's Hamad offer came at the emergency meeting of the Bahraini Government in the capital, Manama.

"The king said this initiative from Bahrain came as part of its national responsibility to preserve regional security and stability and assure that the region lived in peace, in addition to sparing Iraq and its brotherly people war," BNA said.

Bahrain - a key Washington ally in the Gulf - is home to the American Fifth fleet, and hosts about 1,000 US military personnel.

Earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates floated the idea of exile for President Hussein to prevent the US-led invasion.

The proposal won informal support from a number of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

And an offer to give President Saddam sanctuary also came from a small Italian town in southern Italy.

The authorities of Soveria Mannelli in Calabria said they were acting to resolve the Iraq crisis peacefully.


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