Red Cross Awaits Date for Saddam Visit

The International Red Cross (searchis waiting to fix a date with U.S. authorities so that it can visit former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (searchwhere he is being detained, officials said Wednesday.

"We hope that this visit can take place as rapidly as possible," Balthasar Staehelin (searchof the International Committee of the Red Cross told a small group of reporters.

"We await now for the final date to be fixed for an ICRC delegate to have access to him," said Staehelin, who is the agency's delegate-general for the Middle East and North Africa.

The ICRC has had a request pending with U.S. authorities to visit Saddam as a prisoner of war under the Geneva Conventions since soon after his Dec. 13 capture.

"I have no indication why this hasn't taken place yet, but we are certainly committed to realize this visit as rapidly as possible," said Staehelin.

He said the visit will be like that made to any other POW.

Saddam will be given the opportunity to write Red Cross messages to his family, he said.

The usual rules will apply, Staehelin said. They have to be "of a uniquely family nature" and they will be subject to censorship of the detaining authorities.

"To whom he will write these messages I cannot anticipate, but we will certainly endeavor to provide these services to Saddam Hussein," Staehelin said.

ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said in a newspaper interview last weekend that the neutral, Swiss-run agency, which is entitled to visit war detainees under the Geneva Conventions, had "a green light" from U.S. officials for the visit, but still didn't know when it would take place.