Bahrain Offers Saddam Safe Haven

The Persian Gulf state of Bahrain offered Saddam Hussein a haven Wednesday, the first such offer to be publicly extended to the embattled Iraqi leader.

Arab officials say six non-Arab countries have also offered to take him in.

Bahrain's Information Minister Nabil al-Hamer told The Associated Press that his country's offer was relayed to Saddam through "diplomatic channels."

"It's the last-hour chance, and we hope that Iraq will accept this offer to avoid war," al-Hamer said. "As a regional country Bahrain shares the responsibility to maintain peace in the area and we believe nobody wants war."

The official Bahrain News Agency reported that the announcement came at an emergency Cabinet meeting chaired by the king, Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

Saddam has vowed to fight rather than flee, despite President Bush's ultimatum that he leave Iraq with his sons by Wednesday night or face war over his alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Bahrain is closely allied to the United States. It hosts onshore offices for the Navy's 5th Fleet, which has aircraft carriers, destroyers and other ships stationed in the Gulf and Arabian Sea in preparation for war on Iraq.