UAE says Saddam agreed to exile before war
JIM KRANE Associated Press
Posted on Sat, Oct. 29, 2005
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Saddam Hussein accepted an 11th-hour offer to
flee into exile weeks ahead of the U.S.-led 2003 invasion, but Arab League
officials scuttled the proposal, officials in this Gulf state claimed.
The exile initiative was spearheaded by the late president of the United
Arab Emirates, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, at an emergency Arab summit
held in Egypt in February 2003, Sheik Zayed's son said in an interview aired
by Al-Arabiya TV during a documentary. The U.S.-led coalition invaded on
March 19 that year.
A top government official confirmed the offer on Saturday, speaking on
condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Saddam allegedly accepted the offer to try halt the invasion and bring
elections to Iraq within six months, claimed the official and Sheik Zayed's
"We had the final acceptance of the various parties ... the main players in
the world and the concerned person, Saddam Hussein," the son, Sheik Mohammed
Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said during the program aired Thursday to mark the
first anniversary of his father's death.
Sheik Zayed's initiative would have given Saddam and his family exile and
guarantees against prosecution in return for letting Arab League and U.N.
experts run Iraq until elections could be held in six months, the official
"We were coming (to the summit in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh resort) to place
the facts on the table," said Sheik Mohammed, who is deputy chief of the
Emirates armed forces and crown prince of Abu Dhabi.
"The results would have emerged if the initiative was presented and
discussed. This is now history."
The anonymous Emirates official said Arab League Secretary-General Amr
Moussa did not bring the proposal to the summit's discussion because Arab
foreign ministers had not presented and accepted it as league protocol
At the time, Arab League leaders said the summit decided not to take up the
idea, citing league rules barring interference in
members' domestic affairs.
It was not immediately possible to verify the Emirates claims that their
offer had been accepted by Saddam, who is being held in U.S. military
custody in Iraq and his facing trial on charges of crimes against humanity.
Officials from the Egypt-based 22-member Arab League declined to comment.
But at the 2003 summit, the Iraqi delegation rejected the Emirates proposal,
while Iraq's former U.N. ambassador, Mohammed Al-Douri, said Saddam was not
The Al-Arabiya documentary claimed Iraqi officials had dismissed the idea
because they did not know Saddam had accepted it.
Saddam himself remained defiant ahead of the U.S.-led onslaught and hid in
Iraq until being captured in December 2003.
The speculation over Saddam's acceptance of the offer comes three years
after the start of the Iraqi war.
The documentary also included an interview from Egypt's President Hosni
Mubarak, who said the United States was aware of the proposal.
In a January 2004 interview with British Channel 4 TV, ex-Lebanese President
Amin Gemayel said Saddam had rejected calls to leave Iraq and end the 2003
standoff with the United States. Gemayel mediated between Saddam and the
One country that came up in the exile discussions was Belarus, but the
Emirates official said some governments balked at offering sanctuary to
Saddam's notorious sons, Odai and Qusai.
Almost all the Arab League's member states are Sunni Muslim-majority nations
and the pan-Arab body has kept Iraq at arm's length since the U.S.-led
invasion, which most of its members opposed.
Associated Press writer Salah Nasrawi contributed to this report from Cairo,