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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 April, 2003, 03:33 GMT 04:33 UK
Aziz UK 'asylum idea' denied
Tariq Aziz
Arrested: Tariq Aziz was 43rd on the Americans' "most wanted" list
Reports that Iraq's deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz may be offered asylum in Britain in return for information about Saddam Hussein's regime have been branded "ridiculous" by the Home Office.

Mr Aziz, 67, has reportedly requested asylum in the UK, according to the Sun newspaper.

But a Home Office spokeswoman said there was no question asylum would be granted to someone who had abused other people's human rights.

Under the 1951 Refugee Convention governments do not have to consider asylum applications of war criminals.

CIA interrogators believe Mr Aziz may know what became of leading regime figures, including Saddam himself, and the location of alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Senior role

A military source said: "It may be he is being offered some sort of deal for pointing the coalition in the right direction but it depends on whether he wants to co-operate."

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Mr Aziz was a senior person in that regime.

Mr Aziz's family said he had negotiated with US forces for several days before surrendering on Thursday.

A fluent speaker of English, he was the main envoy to the West under Saddam's Hussein's regime.

TARIQ AZIZ
Born in 1936, near Mosul, northern Iraq
Studied English literature and became a journalist
The most senior Christian in the toppled regime
Enlisted US support for war on Iran
Met US President Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1984
Was Saddam Hussein's deputy for more than a decade

US forces were also quizzing Farouk Hijazi, the ex-operations chief for Iraq's intelligence service after he was taken into custody near the Syrian border on Thursday night.

A former Iraqi exile who declared himself governor of Baghdad, Mohammed Mohsen Al-Zubaidi, told the BBC he gave the Americans the information that led them to arrest Mr Aziz and his family.

Mr Aziz, as a member of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council, was wanted for war crimes against Kuwait, Iran and his own people.

There had been fears regime leaders would flee Iraq, perhaps into Syria.

But arrests continue to be made in Iraq, and officials such as UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw say they believe Saddam Hussein is still inside his country.




SEE ALSO:
US ponders Iraqi leaders' fate
25 Apr 03  |  Middle East


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