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Opposition Group Says Iraqi Weightlifter Has Defected In Atlanta

July 31, 1996

LONDON (AP) _ An member of Iraq’s Olympic weightlifting team who carried his nation’s flag in the opening ceremony has defected and is seeking political asylum in the United States, an Iraqi opposition group said Wednesday.

A statement from the Iraqi National Congress identified the athlete as Raed Ahmed and said he defected earlier Wednesday.

``In a bold move to elude his government handlers, Raed A. Ahmed, an Olympic weightlifter, has defected from the Iraqi regime and is asking for political asylum in the United States today (Wednesday),″ the statement said.

``The 29-year-old athlete, who carried the Iraqi flag in the opening ceremonies, will join the Iraqi National Congress, the main opposition group to Saddam’s (President Saddam Hussein’s) regime,″ the statement continued.

The statement quoted Ahmed as saying:

``Saddam, his two sons Uday and Qusay, and his regime have turned Iraq into a concentration camp. I have witnessed with my own eyes Saddam’s cousin, Ali Hasan Majid, shoot innocent civilians. I had to take this opportunity to escape.″

The statement said Ahmed was expected to hold a news conference in Atlanta on Thursday. It gave no other details.

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