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Saddam’s son could risk total paralysis with spine surgery

January 30, 1997

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) _ Saddam Hussein’s eldest son could risk total paralysis if he undergoes surgery to remove bullets lodged in his pelvis and a sensitive area near his spine, sources said today.

The sources said Odai Saddam Hussein, widely considered Saddam’s heir apparent, has been partially paralyzed since being shot in a Dec. 12 ambush in Baghdad’s wealthy al-Mansour district.

Iraqi dissidents have suggested Odai was partially paralyzed based on appearances on Iraqi television in which he was not seen to move his legs. But the sources today appeared to give the most reliable description yet of Odai’s condition.

The sources and an Iraqi opposition group said two French physicians who arrived in Baghdad last month to check on Odai, 32, returned home this week.

``They did what they can, but Odai’s condition is very complex,″ said one of the sources, whose government was well-informed on the physicians’ experiences in Baghdad.

The source said the doctors, whom he declined to identify, operated three times on Odai and removed several bullets from various parts of his body.

``But they were unable to remove one or two bullets that lodged in a sensitive area in the lower part of the spinal cord because that surgery could lead to total and permanent paralysis,″ the source said.

Another source, who maintains close contacts with the Iraqi regime, also said Odai is partly paralyzed ``because a few bullets remain in his pelvis and back.″

``It’s pretty bad that he’s left with no choice but to undergo a very sensitive surgery that could leave him paralyzed forever,″ added the source.

Both sources insisted they not be identified further.

Iraq has sought to disparage reports that Odai was seriously wounded. He has made several appearances on Iraqi television in the last few weeks, lying in bed in Baghdad’s Ibn Sina hospital with his legs and much of his torso covered while receiving well-wishers.

The most recent appearance was 10 minutes of footage Wednesday, showing Odai smiling and chatting with his guests, who included Cabinet ministers and security officers.

The scenes seemed to be filmed at different times since Odai appeared with a beard at one point, then without the beard.

He was wearing a white hospital shirt and his right arm and right leg were seen to move. But there was no visible movement in the left arm. His left hand rested on his stomach and the fingers moved slightly.

Iraq has sought to blame the attack on Odai on neighboring Iran, with whom it fought an eight-year war in the 1980s. Iran has denied any involvement.

Three Iraqi opposition groups have claimed they were behind the attack on Odai. But some opposition figures have said the ambush was carried out in revenge by the family of an Iraqi official killed by the regime in Baghdad.

Odai’s mother, Sajida, is Saddam’s first wife. She was reportedly put under house arrest earlier this week after opposing his plan to forgive the killers of his two sons-in-laws who had defected to the West.

Iraq has denied U.S. allegations of turmoil in Saddam’s regime, however, and today accused the Clinton administration of ``forging facts against Iraq.″

The government issued the statement two days after U.S. officials said Saddam had launched extensive military exercises that could threaten neighboring Kuwait, which it attacked in 1990.

``It seems that the crew operating the kitchen for media lies in Washington resumed its task to mislead the public opinion of the United States and to raise fears in the Kuwaiti leadership again,″ the statement read.

It also said people would not believe the U.S. statements because ``international public opinion is used to these kinds of media bubbles.″

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