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[casi] Report: Qatar proposes exile for Saddam

Today's USA Today (largest circulation national daily in the U.S.) leads with
this story of an effort to force Saddam into exile.


Saddam resists a push into exile

By John Diamond, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON  The United States and some of its Arab allies have begun a quiet
effort to defuse the Iraq crisis by persuading Saddam Hussein to yield power and
go into exile.

An initial overture came in August, when Qatar's foreign minister suggested to
Saddam that he consider stepping down to avoid a devastating war with the United
States. Saddam angrily told the Qatari diplomat to leave, according to three
Arab diplomats.

The feeler was part of a strategy to see whether Saddam, faced with defeat and
possible death in a U.S. invasion, would follow other dictators who have fled
crisis and gone into exile.

It is unclear whether the United States or Arab states initiated the Qatari
overture. Administration officials made clear this week that they could accept
such an outcome as an alternative to war, but the administration does not want
to appear to be the originator of the idea, for fear that it would kill any
chance Saddam would accept.

A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
that although continued freedom for Saddam is contrary to official U.S. policy,
"it's a scenario we have to come to terms with." He said the Unites States still
would have to deal with elements of Saddam's regime that might remain in Iraq.

The White House has said it wants Saddam ousted and tried for war crimes, such
as using chemical weapons on his own people. But Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld said earlier this month that "the world would be a better place if
(Saddam) decided it was in his best interests to take his family and leave."

Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad al-Thani met with Saddam in late August. The
minister told reporters afterward that the purpose of the meeting was to avoid
"catastrophe," meaning a U.S. attack on Iraq.

Three Arab diplomats familiar with the meeting said that in oblique language,
al-Thani discussed ways to avoid conflict with the United States. He urged
Saddam to abide by United Nations sanctions, warned of the buildup of U.S.
forces in Qatar and raised the idea of a decision by Saddam to yield power as a
way out. A spokesman for Qatar's embassy in Washington said al-Thani would have
no comment on these accounts.

A European diplomat said Arab states are quietly discussing how to press the
issue with Saddam and are exploring possible havens for his exile.

Floating the exile idea is attractive to Washington because it might reduce
Saddam's sense of desperation, a concern among Pentagon officials worried that
he would unleash a chemical or biological attack if he believed his regime faced
imminent destruction by U.S. forces. It could also avoid a bloody and
politically costly war. Arab allies are drawn to the exile scenario because it
is a way for them to avoid supporting U.S. war efforts against another Muslim

Iraq expert Judith Yaphe, a former CIA analyst now doing research at the
National Defense University, said it would be "totally out of character" for
Saddam to accept exile. The Iraqi leader regards survival and his continued hold
on power as inextricably linked, she said. Moreover, Saddam could not be sure
that he would last long in exile given his long list of enemies.


Some diplomats are hoping Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein will relinquish power
voluntarily. Other dictators who have gone into exile:

Idi Amin, 77 (Uganda): Reportedly responsible for 300,000 political killings,
Amin fled to Saudi Arabia in 1979, where he has lived extravagantly on the Red
Sea in Jiddah. His family has been campaigning for his return to Uganda.

Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, 51 (Haiti): Accused of an estimated 60,000
political killings, Duvalier departed in 1986 for France, which agreed to take
him to aid democracy in Haiti. Living in Paris on handouts, he is a largely
forgotten figure.

Hissene Habre, 60 (Chad): Accused of killing 40,000 and torturing 200,000 more
during his eight-year rule, he fled to Senegal in 1990, where he has maintained
a low profile, living outside the capital of Dakar. Senegal has offered to
extradite him to a third country to face charges if a fair trial can be assured.

Mengistu Haile Mariam, 65 (Ethiopia): Accused of killing 200,000 while millions
more died from starvation and civil war during his 17-year rule, he fled in 1991
to Zimbabwe. He lives in Harare, but a 1995 assassination attempt has curtailed
his public life.

Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, 89 (Paraguay): Stroessner overthrew the government in
1954 and was elected president without opposition. He fled to Brazil in 1989
after a coup ended his 35-year dictatorship. He now lives quietly in a mansion
outside the capital of Brasilia and is rarely seen.

Source: USA TODAY research

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