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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 February, 2004, 16:57 GMT
Red Cross visits Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein, pictured after his arrest
Saddam Hussein was examined by a doctor
The International Committee of the Red Cross has visited former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein for the first time since he was captured over two months ago.

Two ICRC officials - one a doctor - visited him on Saturday and hope to conduct further visits, spokeswoman Nada Dumani said.

They assessed the physical and mental state of the ex-president who is in US custody somewhere in Iraq.

Saddam Hussein gave the Red Cross a letter to be delivered to his family.

The visit to Saddam Hussein followed the same procedure as all others conducted by the Red Cross which is responsible for monitoring the welfare of prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.

The aim was "to track and monitor the conditions of detention and treatment of the detainee," said Ms Dumani, speaking from Amman, Jordan.

"We want to see whether he is getting enough food and water and also to check his health condition and to give him the possibility to write a message to his family, which he did."

She did not say when another visit might take place.

Little has been heard of the veteran Iraqi leader since he was captured by US forces in a pit in a village north of Baghdad on 13 December, 2003.

He is being held at an undisclosed location in Iraq.

Confidentiality

The US gave Saddam Hussein prisoner of war (POW) status on 9 January, paving the way for the Red Cross
[Officials] spent enough time with the former Iraqi president to get an idea of the material conditions of the detention as well as his health conditions
Muin Cassis, ICRC

to visit him.

The ICRC said it was unable to divulge Saddam Hussein's condition, in accordance with the rules of the Third Geneva convention.

During the visit, the former Iraqi leader was allowed to discuss his detention in confidence with no US officials present and the Red Cross said US forces followed all the procedures required for the visit.

Any problems that emerge as a result of such visits are raised by the ICRC representatives directly and in confidence with the US military.

Since last March, the ICRC has registered more than 10,000 prisoners of war and civilian detainees in Iraq.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, has said Saddam Hussein will stand trial in a special Iraqi court, although a date has not yet been set.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Jake Lynch
"Saddam Hussein is still being held in Iraq"



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