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Monday, 4 September, 2000, 09:58 GMT 10:58 UK
Saddam 'stricken with lymph cancer'
Saddam Hussein
Saddam keeps his public appearances to a minimum
The Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, is reported to be suffering from lymph cancer and to be preparing to undergo chemotherapy.

An influential Arabic newspaper, the London-based Ash-Sharq al-Awsat, says a family council led by his youngest son, Qusay, is ready to take control if he dies.

The Saudi-financed paper quoted an Iraqi doctor "with an excellent reputation" as saying that a medical team of three French doctors, one German and one Swede was looking after the Iraqi leader.

The report was denied by the Iraqi embassy in London.

Iraqi women pass by portrait of Saddam
Saddam Hussein maintains an iron grip despite Iraq's chronic problems
The doctor "revealed that the presidential office did not allow any Iraqi doctor to join the special medical team treating Saddam," the paper said.

Western newspapers have reported several times in recent years that Saddam Hussein has cancer.

He appeared to be in good health during a visit by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in early August.

The Iraqi leader has retained a firm grip on power since 1979, with no serious domestic challenge, despite the strain caused by 10 years of UN sanctions and almost daily US and British air strikes.

The special medical team was brought together by a committee chaired by the president's personal secretary Abd Humud, the Arabic daily said.

Palatial clinic

The doctor, who is attending a medical conference abroad, said one of the presidential palaces in a Baghdad suburb had been turned into a private clinic for the Iraqi leader and medical equipment had been brought in from Jordan.

He is suffering from pain in the joints, breathing difficulties, poor eyesight, temporary memory loss and lack of concentration, the doctor is quoted as saying.

Previously, Saddam Hussein had "refused to submit to chemotherapy," the doctor said, "but he will have to submit to this solution, which has been recommended by a team of Iraqi doctors specialising in cancer".

Family gathering

An "independent Iraqi source" quoted by the paper said the Iraqi president chaired a family meeting at which the special council was formed.

The meeting was attended by his personal secretary Abd Humud, his two sons Uday and Qusay, and his three brothers Barzan, Watban and Sabawi.

The president's wife did not attend the meeting, since she is under semi-house arrest with her two daughters Raghad and Rana in the Awjah presidential palace, the source said.

Barzan al-Takriti, who has fallen out with Saddam Hussein according to Arab reports, is today a simple "adviser" within the family council, which is already helping to run Iraq's affairs, the source said.

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