Published September 22, 2003
The U.S. military on Sunday denied a British tabloid report that Saddam Hussein has been trying to broker a safe-haven deal with American officials for the past nine days, according to Reuters news service.
Quoting an unnamed "senior Iraqi," the UK's Sunday Mirror reported that Saddam had sent his English-speaking representative to negotiate with American forces in the dictator's hometown of Tikrit.
The aide led soldiers to a letter, allegedly from Saddam, asking for a safe exile to the ex-Soviet republic of Belarus in exchange for information about bank accounts holding tens of millions in pillaged money and details of the elusive weapons of mass destruction.
Lieutenant Colonel William MacDonald, spokesman for the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division — which controls Tikrit north of Baghdad — told Reuters that the Mirror story was inaccurate.
"The 4th Infantry Division has not had any contact with any former regime members regarding Saddam Hussein's disposition," he told Reuters.
The U.S. has in the past insisted it would never negotiate a surrender or exile plan with Saddam.
The Mirror report said Saddam's aide approached American troops in Tikrit headquarters on Sept. 12 and took them to a suburb in the vicinity. The tabloid reports one of Saddam's security chiefs was waiting with a handwritten note, purportedly from the fugitive former president of Iraq. The letter requested negotiation talks with the U.S. military.
The Mirror reported that President Bush was being briefed regularly about the talks by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, who was coordinating the negotiations. The tabloid said that the U.S. had no intention of giving Saddam exile, but was engaging in the talks to pinpoint his whereabouts.
Saddam has been on the run since his ouster in April by U.S.-led forces.
American commanders in the region have previously said it's likely that Saddam might be hiding in his hometown because he still has heavy support in the area from family, local tribal members and other residents.
U.S. and other allied forces invaded Iraq in March, citing an imminent threat to national security because of weapons of mass destruction. Evidence of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons has so far not been found.
Fox News' Catherine Donaldson-Evans contributed to this report.