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[casi] RC Gets Access to Saddam Loyalists

Red Cross Gets Access to Saddam Loyalists

Associated Press Writer
August 4, 2003, 2:21 PM EDT

GENEVA -- The U.S.-led authorities running Iraq have granted the
International Red Cross access to captured members of Saddam Hussein's
former regime, a senior official from the aid agency confirmed Monday.

Pierre Kraehenbuehl, director of operations at the International Committee
of the Red Cross, said the U.S. and British military and the Coalition
Provisional Authority were respecting the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which
allow the organization to visit all detainees.

"There is no person we are aware of to whom access has been denied,"
Kraehenbuehl said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Officials from the Swiss-led agency are always tightlipped about individual
cases, and Kraehenbuehl declined to comment on specific detainees from
Saddam's inner circle.

ICRC officials said they had logged about 3,000 captives held by the
coalition at the end of July -- tallying with figures released by the
Coalition Provisional Authority. They include POWs, common criminals and
high-profile former regime members.

Early in the U.S.-led war on Iraq, the Defense Department issued a deck of
cards showing the 55 most-wanted Iraqis. Thirty-five are in custody, 16
remain at large, two -- Saddam's sons Odai and Qusai -- have been confirmed
killed and two reported killed.

Those in custody include Tariq Aziz, former deputy prime minister, and Gen.
Zuhayr Talib Abd al-Sattar al-Naqib, former head of the Directorate of
Military Intelligence.

In May, the ICRC demanded access to captured former regime members.
Kraehenbuehl declined to say when the coalition had approved the visits.

But he said the ICRC remains odds with the United States over Washington's
detention of about 660 terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, some close
to 20 months.

The U.S. military maintains the detainees, suspected of links to the fallen
Afghan Taliban regime or al-Qaida terrorist network, are illegal combatants
and are not entitled to POW status under the Geneva Conventions. The ICRC
says combatants captured in conflict have a right under the conventions to
be considered POWs unless a tribunal rules otherwise.

The ICRC, which now has 850 people working across Iraq, has engineers and
technicians working in cities like Baghdad and Basra to try to restore water
and electricity supplies damaged in the U.S. bombardment and Iraqi looting.

The ICRC has lost two staff in the country this year, one caught in
crossfire as American forces closed in on Baghdad in April, the other shot
by unknown assailants two weeks ago near Hilla, south of the Iraqi capital.

Kraehenbuehl said it looked like a deliberate attack and "not look like an
act of banditry that went wrong."

He said it was unclear whether the neutral ICRC was the specific target, but
staff from other aid agencies also have faced increasing attacks even as
troops from the U.S.-led coalition have been hit by a string of ambushes.

"The question is: how do you manage to get the message across that while you
are an international organization, you are not part of the
military-political structure," Kraehenbuehl said.
Copyright  2003, The Associated Press

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