Jordan Bans Entry to Saddam’s Cronies
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) _ Jordan has granted sanctuary to Saddam Hussein’s two eldest daughters, but has been banning entry to the ousted leader’s cronies to avoid Iraq’s complex politics and assist U.S.-led efforts to restore law and order in the still unstable country, officials and analysts said Friday.
Raghad Saddam Hussein and Rana Saddam Hussein were accepted into Jordan unexpectedly Thursday _ apparently directly from Iraq _ upon King Abdullah II’s orders. The government said both women, who had been living in humble circumstances in neighboring Iraq and whose father had their husbands killed in 1996, were allowed in on ``humanitarian grounds″ after they had ``run out of all options.″
Friday, government officials, insisting on anonymity, offered justifications for Jordan’s granting of refuge to both women. One said Saddam’s daughters had little to do with Iraqi politics and another said they were not being sought for crimes linked to their father’s ousted regime.
Both stressed that Jordan wanted to stay out of Iraqi politics and that Thursday’s gesture was only ``benevolent.″
In an interview with the Arab satellite station al-Arabiya in Jordan on Friday, Raghad Saddam Hussein described the swift fall of the Iraqi capital to coalition forces on April 9 as a ``great shock″ and blamed it on ``very strong″ betrayal by unnamed associates of Saddam.
``With regret, those my father trusted, whom he had put his absolute confidence in and whom he had considered on his side _ as I understood from the newspapers _ betrayed him,″ said Raghad, wearing a fashionable white headscarf.
``They betrayed their country, before (they betrayed) Saddam Hussein or his family,″ she said.
She appeared relaxed during a brief segment of excerpts of the interview, which was to be broadcast in full later Friday. Al-Arabiya reporters said the interview was conducted at an Amman royal palace, where Raghad, her sister and their nine children were staying under the protection of Abdullah.
Jordan held close ties with Iraq under Saddam mainly because of mutual business interests. Until the war broke out in March, Baghdad met Amman’s oil requirements at cheap prices and in return obtained food, medicine and other humanitarian needs in a deal estimated at US$700 million annually.
Jordanians have been highly sympathetic toward Iraqis during the years because of similar traditions, culture and language. Many among Jordan’s predominantly Palestinian population supported Saddam for what they regarded as his defiance of Israel in the Gulf crisis over Kuwait in 1990-91, when Baghdad fired 39 scud missiles at Israel.
During the last 13 years, Jordan has given sanctuary to an estimated 300,000 Iraqis who have fled Saddam’s rule and worsening economic conditions caused by wars and crippling U.N. sanctions.
Weeks before the U.S.-led war in Iraq broke out, Jordan barred many Iraqis, mainly senior members of Saddam’s Arab Baath Socialist Party, from entering, security officials said condition on anonymity. They said the ban later extended to Iraqi government officials and those with close links to Saddam.
But two months ago, Jordan granted asylum to some close relatives of Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s deputy prime minister under Saddam before his April 24 arrest. Aziz was number 43 of America’s list of 55 most wanted former Iraqi officials and the number eight of spades in the U.S. military’s card deck of top Iraqi leaders.
Jordanian officials said Aziz’s wife, Violet, and eldest son, Ziad, were granted permission to enter the country as a ``humanitarian gesture.″
Word of the arrival of two of Saddam’s five children in Jordan Thursday followed the deaths of his two sons, Odai and Qusai, in a July 22 clash with American troops. U.S. officials say they are closing in on Saddam, but it was unclear if his daughters’ departure from Iraq indicated the hunt for their father was nearing an end.
Saddam’s daughters had lived private lives and not been publicly linked to abuses _ unlike their father and their late brothers. Raghad Saddam Hussein and Rana Saddam Hussein instead had been seen by some as victims of their father’s brutality.
Their husbands, brothers Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel and Saddam Kamel, defected to Jordan in 1995 and announced plans to work to overthrow Saddam. The men, who also were Saddam’s cousins, were lured back in February 1996 and killed on Saddam’s orders.