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Daughters of Saddam Hussein Find Refuge in Jordan

Aired July 31, 2003 - 20:19   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: There's news tonight that two of Saddam Hussein's children have found refuge outside of Iraq. Jordan says Saddam's two oldest daughters are in that country under the protection of the Jordanian government.
Jane Arraf is live, by way of videophone, from Amman, Jordan, with the very latest.

Good evening, Jane.

If you could, kind of walk us through what happened today.

JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Paula, the upshot is that Rana and Raghad, who are the oldest and middle daughters of Saddam Hussein, and Saddam's nine grandchildren are safe in Jordan tonight.

Now, they seem to have been on the run and hiding for quite some time. And the Jordanian government says this was a royal gesture, a humanitarian one, to help women and children in distress. Now, this is not the first time they have sought refuge here. These two women came with their husbands, Hussein and Saddam Kamel in 1995, when those two men defected. Now, the Hussein Kamel spilled pretty well all the beans about the secret weapons programs at the time. But he was lured back there by thoughts that he would be forgiven. He wasn't. And the two men were murdered.

Now, that left the women widowed. And in a further note to this tangled family saga, their brothers, of course, Uday and Qusay, were killed in a shoot-out last week. A source close to the family tells us they're understandably distraught and they just want to have the chance at least of a little bit of a more normal life than they otherwise would in Iraq -- Paula.

ZAHN: How is it that they're expected to be received there by the Jordanian people?

ARRAF: I think the Jordanian people, as well as even some Iraqis, would have some sympathy for them. They really do see them as victims themselves, the closest victims, perhaps, to Saddam and his family, particularly his eldest son, Uday, who was deemed to have been responsible for the deaths of their husbands.

Now, this really was a gesture by the royal family here. They said and a source close to them and close to the family said that the women asked for protection and they had no choice but to give it. So that's really how it's being seen. One of the questions is, do they have any information that American forces would want? But they have been estranged for some time from their father. It didn't help a lot that he had their husbands killed.

And for a long time, they were under virtual house arrest. They were thought to have improved relations somewhat lately, but not to the point where they're deemed to possibly have valuable information about where Saddam might be -- Paula.

ZAHN: Jane Arraf, thanks so much.

As Jane just mentioned, those daughters estranged from their father, virtually under house arrest in Iraq, neither believed to know of Saddam's whereabouts.

A little bit earlier on this week, I spoke with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in what the U.S. might be interested in hearing from the women.


RICHARD ARMITAGE, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: I can't manage that we would want to capture the female family members of Saddam Hussein, but we would be extraordinary interested to learn about his habits, to talk to them. I have seen stories where they have gone to allegedly gone to Syria and been returned to Iraq, or they've gone to Lebanon and gone to ground. But we would be very interested.


ZAHN: CNN analyst Ken Pollack, who is also the director of research at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institute, joins me now.



ZAHN: Fine, thanks.

What do you think these women know about their estranged father?

POLLACK: Probably not much, to tell you the truth.

Our understanding is that they haven't been spending time with their father, that they have not necessarily been accompanying him in his little flight all over Iraq. Instead, as you heard Deputy Secretary Armitage suggest, what's believed is that the two of them have been trying very hard to find safe harbor somewhere, that they've been contacting a whole variety of different governments and embassies in the region, trying to find themselves sanctuary somewhere.

ZAHN: Was the United States aware that the Jordanians were going to take them in?

POLLACK: Well, I think that, certainly, rumors had reached U.S. ears that the two daughters were out there trying hard to find sanctuary somewhere. Whether it was clear that the Jordanians would do so, whether there was any U.S. contact with the Jordanians, whether the U.S. said to the Jordanian government, the two daughters are out there, they are looking for someplace to go, why don't you take them in, I just don't think we know yet.

ZAHN: And will the U.S. have any access to these two women?

POLLACK: My guess is that the Jordanians probably will, at the very least, ask the two daughters and suggest that they do meet with the United States.

Again, as you heard Deputy Secretary Armitage suggest, I can't imagine the United States is going to want to take them and interrogate them in the same kind of fashion that U.S. forces do the members of the former regime that they capture inside of Iraq. But, certainly, there is a lot of information that I think they will hope that Saddam's daughters will be willing to give them about their father.

ZAHN: Jane Arraf just sort of outlined what Rana and Raghad's relationship was like with their father, not a very good one. How did they get along with the two brothers, who were just killed?

POLLACK: Again, our understanding is that not very well. After all, it's the two brothers that led the attack that killed their husbands in 1996.

ZAHN: And those young men were brought back into the country thinking they would be OK.

POLLACK: Right, exactly.

They were told by Saddam that they were going to be pardoned. They came back. Two days later, Saddam staged an attack by all of the members of his immediate family that killed them and their father in a very nasty shoot-out.

ZAHN: Ken Pollack, thanks so much for joining us.

POLLACK: Always glad to, Paula.


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