No Talks for Saddam’s Son Odai, U.S. Says
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ American military commanders are making it clear that the Bush administration will accept nothing less than unconditional surrender from Saddam Hussein’s eldest son _ and, by implication, his top advisers and Baath Party members still hiding in Iraq.
The commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq, responding to a report that Odai Hussein might be seeking to surrender, said Friday he knew of no negotiations being held with envoys of Saddam’s eldest son, and he insisted the U.S. military isn’t seeking to cut any deals.
``Nobody’s brought an offer from Odai to me, and I would facilitate his coming on in. But it would be unconditional,″ Lt. Gen. David McKiernan said at a security briefing in Baghdad.
``There are no negotiations,″ he said. ``There is a lot of intel, there’s a lot of reports that we follow up on _ on locations _ but there are no negotiations going on. Nor would there be.″
McKiernan’s comments came in response to a report Friday in The Wall Street Journal, which said Odai was considering surrendering to American forces. The newspaper cited ``a third party with knowledge of the discussions.″
U.S. officials said they have no information that would verify the claim.
Apprehending Odai Saddam Hussein, the ace of hearts in the coalition’s deck of cards and No. 3 on its most-wanted list, would be a major victory for U.S. forces in postwar Iraq. Odai, known for being cruel and something of a loose cannon, oversaw the Saddam’s Fedayeen fighting force.
Saddam himself remains unaccounted for, and it is uncertain whether he is alive. The same goes for his second son, Qusai. The Journal quoted the source as saying Saddam was alive and also in suburban Baghdad.
``From day one, and it continues today, we’re searching for everybody on the blacklist, including his family,″ McKiernan said.
The Journal’s ``third party″ said Odai had been reluctant to surrender because the U.S. government had taken a hard line and because he wanted to know what the charges against him would be. Odai also fears that Iraqi citizens will kill him if they find him, the Journal reported, saying he ``may instead choose the safety of a U.S. prison.″
Officials at the Baghdad headquarters of the Iraqi National Congress, which has previously taken officials into custody and handed them over to the United States, were not in their offices Friday afternoon, the Muslim sabbath.
This week, the U.S. military captured the most senior Baath Party leader yet _ Aziz Saleh al-Numan _ after reported efforts by his family to negotiate a surrender and to throw U.S. forces off track by publishing a death notice. He was No. 8 on Central Command’s list.
U.S. officials have said al-Numan is one of nine top Iraqi leaders whom the United States wants to see tried for war crimes or crimes against humanity.
He was prominent in the quelling of the Shiite Muslim uprising in the immediate aftermath of the 1991 U.S.-led attack that ousted the Iraqi army from Kuwait. A Shiite, he had a reputation for cruel treatment of the rebels, accused by opposition groups of killing and torture.
Before the uprising, when he was governor of Najaf, he was accused of arresting, torturing and killing Shiite clerics during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war.
The capture of al-Numan brought to 25 the number of Iraqis from the top 55 list who are in coalition custody, by Pentagon count.