Page last updated at 15:56 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Iraq fails to sell Saddam's yacht

The Basrah Breeze in Nice, August 2008
Despite the yacht's luxurious facilities, Saddam Hussein is not thought to have spent any time on board

The Iraqi government's attempts to sell a luxury yacht that once belonged to Saddam Hussein have foundered.

Despite features including a missile launcher and operating theatre, no-one was willing to pay $30m for the 82m (270ft) Basrah Breeze.

The vessel, which will be towed back to Iraq from Europe, also has an escape tunnel leading to a mini-submarine.

Baghdad officials have blamed the global economic slump for their failure to find a buyer.

"The Iraqi government decision to bring the yacht home will spare Baghdad the possibility of facing other claims and saves it docking and crew costs," a government statement said.

"The Iraqi government will not be able to sell the yacht in the current circumstances with the world dealing with the financial crisis."

The yacht will now be towed from the Greek port of Piraeus back to Basra province, the government said.

Iraq decided to sell the yacht late last year after it won a legal battle with a Jordanian company over its ownership.

The vessel had been expected to sell for about $30m, but brokers warned that the "Arabesque" decor would not suit all tastes.

It had been decked out with mahogany carvings, gold tap fittings and brightly-coloured deep-pile carpets.

The yacht, originally called Qadissiyet Saddam after a historic Iraqi military victory, was built in a Danish shipyard in 1981 by workers who were sworn to secrecy.

But, despite its luxurious facilities, Saddam Hussein is never thought to have stayed on board himself, fearing political instability if he left Iraq.

So for most of its life the Basrah Breeze, which was also known as the Ocean Breeze, was moored in Saudi Arabia.

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