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Saturday, 28 September, 2002, 23:50 GMT 00:50 UK
Profile: Nizar al-Khazraji
The aftermath of a poison gas attack on an Iraqi Kurdish community
Halabjah: a dark episode in Iraqi-Kurdish relations
Former Iraqi chief of staff Nizar al-Khazraji has declared his willingness to lead a military coup against Saddam Hussein, but has so far ruled out a post-conflict political role for himself.

General Khazraji, the highest-ranking officer to flee Saddam's regime, has said in a BBC interview that he was prepared to lead a rebel army into the country.

Military man
1980-1988: Fought in Iraq-Iran war
Late 1980s: Iraqi chief of staff
1995: fled Iraq
Now lives in Denmark
"All real Iraqis want to overthrow this regime and I am one of them," he declared from his home in Denmark.

"I'm willing to sacrifice everything for my country," he added.

In an earlier interview, with the Dubai-based television station MBC, he denied that he had any aspirations to govern Iraq.

"I'm a soldier and I stay a soldier," he said.

Rise and fall

General Khazraji first came to prominence during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, and by the end of that decade had been made head of the country's armed forces.

He claims to have warned Saddam during the Gulf War that the invasion of Kuwait had been a mistake.

He subsequently fell from favour and in 1995 fled to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, travelling on from there to Jordan.

Since the late 1990s he has lived in Denmark.

Atrocity allegations

In late 2001 Danish police launched an investigation into allegations that General Khazraji had been involved in the poison gas attack on the Kurdish town of Halabjah in March 1988.

The general has rejected these allegations, dismissing them as black propaganda spread by Baghdad in order to discredit him.

The Kurdish community is divided over the question.

The two main Iraqi Kurdish groups, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), are reluctant to press the issue, believing that a high-profile prosecution of General Khazraji could discourage other Iraqi generals from defecting.

European Kurdish groups, on the other hand, have called for him to be tried on war crimes charges.

General Khazraji is believed to still enjoy support within the Iraqi military, and this - together with his refusal to become involved in the squabbles within the Iraqi opposition community - has led some observers to see him as a kind of Iraqi Hamid Karzai.

However, the travel ban imposed on him by the Danish authorities for as long as he remains under investigation means that even if he changed his mind about taking an active part in Iraqi politics, his opportunities to do so could be limited.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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26 Sep 02 | Middle East
04 Mar 02 | Middle East
04 Oct 02 | Middle East
03 Oct 02 | Media reports
18 Sep 02 | Media reports
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