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`Saddam tried for a deal with U.S.'

By Hasan Suroor

LONDON SEPT. 21. A British media report today sensationally claimed that America was engaged in "clandestine talks'' with representatives of the former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, over a `deal' that could allow him a safe passage in exchange for crucial information about his elusive weapons of mass destruction and "plundered cash''. In an `exclusive' giving details, including the date, of a meeting between the two sides, the anti-war The Sunday Mirror reported that the initiative had come from Mr. Hussein and the U.S. President, George W. Bush, was "being kept abreast of the extraordinary talks by his National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice''.

"She is coordinating negotiations in Baghdad which are led by Lt. Gen Ricardo Sanchez , the Commander of American forces in Iraq,'' it claimed.

The report said Mr. Hussein was `demanding' safe passage to Belarus . It quoted a "senior Iraqi'' as saying that Mr. Hussein was now "desperate, trapped and finding fewer and fewer persons willing to give him shelter''.

Explaining the U.S. rationale, which had "vowed never to negotiate with Saddam and wanted to take him dead or alive,'' the paper said "the White House hopes the clandestine talks will allow them to pinpoint the tyrant's exact location''. It said the talks had been going on for nine days when "Saddam's English-speaking representative walked into the U.S. HQ at Tikrit — the dictator's home town on September 12 and asked to talk to senior officers''.

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