A sculpture of a tied-up Saddam Hussein floating in a water tank was banned by the mayor of a western Belgian town because it was deemed too controversial, an official said Monday.

The sculpture, by Czech artist David Cerny, was to be displayed in the coastal town of Middelkerke during the Beaufort 2006 arts festival starting April 1.

But Middelkerke Mayor Michel Landuyt banned the sculpture from being displayed, fearing the possible reaction, said Leo Coulier, secretary of the Middelkerke town hall.

"It is a controversial, potentially explosive thing," Coulier said.

The sculpture depicts Saddam Hussein in underpants with his hands tied behind his back in a shark-like pose, in reference to a famous object by the British artist Damien Hirst, whose tiger shark in a glass tank of formaldehyde was nominated in 1991 for the Turner Prize, one of the most prestigious awards for the visual arts in Europe.

The Saddam sculpture will now be exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in the coastal city of Oostende, which plans to put it on display in April, a museum official said.