DOHA, Qatar – Before the fall of Baghdad, Saddam Hussein obtained bomb vests from Iraq's intelligence service and was trained on how to use them, a longtime Iraqi opposition figure said Sunday.
In television interviews, Ahmad Chalabi said he couldn't speculate on whether Saddam's possession of vests like those used by suicide bombers (search) meant the ousted Iraqi leader had decided to kill himself to avoid capture.
"But I'm saying that he has the ability to do so, should he decide to do -- to commit suicide or blow people up with him when they come to catch him," said Chalabi, who is viewed by many people as the Pentagon's candidate to be Iraq's interim president.
Chalabi (search) said he had learned from former Iraqi intelligence officers that Saddam asked for the bomb vests on April 1, eight days before his regime evaporated.
Chalabi said information is still coming in that Saddam (search) and his two sons, Qusai and Odai, are alive and on the run in Iraq. He said the tips indicated the three men are not together.
"We have a pretty good idea of how they are moving and where they were, and we've tried to again focus on how we can know where they will be, so that they can be apprehended," he said.
On another subject, Chalabi said he thinks American companies are likely to get preferential treatment from a future Baghdad government because many of the Iraqis he has talked with are disappointed in the European nations that opposed the campaign to topple Saddam.
"The Iraqi people feel very let down by such countries, especially Germany and France, and I think it is a difficult decision for them to on how to deal with such countries," he told Fox News Sunday.
Iraq should be open to competition for contracts by all international firms, he said, "but I believe that the gratitude that the Iraqi people feel for the United States would give preference and priority for cooperation with the United States in fields of development and economic cooperation and oil."
Chalabi, who left Iraq in 1958 and returned to Baghdad last week, has been promoted by some in Washington as a possible political leader. But he has said he has no political ambitions in Iraq.
Jordan warned against U.S. support of Chalabi Sunday, saying he lacked credibility and support among Iraqis and was a convicted fraud.
"We believe that Ahmad Chalabi does not have credibility, either inside Iraq or in the region," Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher said on NBC's Meet the Press.
Muasher said Jordan "made it very clear to everyone in the United States government and around the world" that Chalabi is divisive. Chalabi is leader of the Iraqi National Congress, which spearheaded opposition to Saddam Hussein from London for years.
"We believe the region and the Iraqis, most importantly, do not want him. And if anybody tells us otherwise, I think the test should be given to the Iraqi people," Muasher said.
Chalabi, 58, has routinely denied Jordan's charges. In 1992, a Jordanian court convicted him in absentia of embezzlement, fraud and breach of trust after a bank he ran collapsed with about $300 million in missing deposits.
The court sentenced him to 22 years in prison.
Chalabi, who left Jordan before the case went to trial, denies the charges, saying Saddam was behind them.
Muasher said under Jordanian law, Chalabi must stand another trial as he was outside the country when the 1992 verdict was handed down.
Jordan's monarch, King Abdullah II, said in a television interview in London that Chalabi may not be Iraq's best choice to lead the country because of the Jordanian embezzlement charges against him and his long absence from Iraq.
"What contacts does he have with the people on the street?" Abdullah asked.
Abdullah has said postwar Iraq should be run by those who lived and suffered under Saddam and that exiled Iraqi opposition groups should have only a minor role in running the country.