- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2003

From combined dispatches
BAGHDAD Iraqi police captured Saddam Hussein's finance minister and handed him over to U.S. forces yesterday, raising hopes of tracing billions of dollars the deposed Ba'athist strongman is believed to have stashed away.
U.S. forces also announced the surrender of a terrorist from the Abu Nidal organization in Baghdad yesterday.
The United States hopes former Finance Minister Hikmat Ibrahim al-Azzawi can help track funds believed to have been secretly transferred abroad by Saddam and his family, whose fate and whereabouts remain a mystery.
Al-Azzawi, No. 45 on the U.S. list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis, was also a deputy prime minister under Saddam.
"As the deputy prime minister for finance and economics, he could have information on the locations of money that belongs to the Iraqi people," said Capt. Stewart Upton, a spokesman at U.S. Central Command in Qatar. "He's a deputy prime minister. That in and of itself says that he has knowledge of the inner workings and the command structure of the regime."
Saddam is thought to have amassed a fortune estimated between $2 billion and $24 billion over his 24 years in power, much of which may be stashed in foreign accounts.
U.S. officials are likely to seek leads on those accounts from al-Azzawi and Saddam's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim Hasan, once ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva and reputed "banker in the West," who is also in custody.
Al-Azzawi is the fifth person from the most-wanted list to be captured so far. The others include two half-brothers of Saddam, a senior intelligence official and a leader of the Ba'ath Party.
The U.S. military said Khala Khadr al-Salahat, an "international terrorist" from the now-dormant Palestinian Abu Nidal organization, surrendered to Marines in Baghdad. Abu Nidal, who died in Baghdad last year under murky circumstances, led a terror campaign blamed for more than 275 deaths on several continents.
Also yesterday, Emad Husayn Abdullah al-Ani, one of Saddam's top scientists and a suspected nerve-agent specialist, turned himself in to American forces.
So far, U.S. troops have found no confirmed chemical or biological weapons in Iraq nor any evidence of solid links between Saddam's regime and the al Qaeda terrorist group.
Al-Ani may be able to provide information on both matters. U.S. officials say he was involved in Iraq's development of the deadly nerve agent VX. He also was accused by U.S. officials in 1998 of involvement with a chemical plant in Sudan linked to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The United States destroyed the plant with cruise missiles after al Qaeda bombed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Local officials and Sudan's government denied the plant was involved in chemical weapons production.
U.S. Marines began pulling out of Baghdad yesterday as part of a planned hand-over to the U.S. Army, which is better equipped to handle the reconstruction of the heavily bombed capital. The Army will deal with rebuilding and policing in the capital, where many residents have no electricity and live in fear of looters.
Postwar recovery has been advancing in staggered steps. Yesterday, thousands of Shi'ite pilgrims renewed a tradition banned for decades as they set out on a walk of faith down dusty roads to the two holy cities of Karbala and Najaf south of Baghdad. U.S. troops kept watch and said they would keep a respectful distance as long as the march of three to four days did not turn against them.
"We don't want to interfere with the pilgrimage," said Maj. James M. Bozeman, a civil affairs officer with the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division, which was helping to police it. "We want it to proceed as normally as possible, but we are prepared for the worst."
Security forces are trying to smooth the way for the pilgrimage to the two holy cities and the shrine of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, Iman Hussein. Shi'ite clerics in Najaf said U.S. soldiers agreed to stay 500 yards back from the burial shrine of Imam Ali, son-in-law of Muhammad.
Shi'ite Muslims make up 60 percent of Iraq's 24 million people, but Saddam's government officially secular was dominated by Sunni Muslims who often forced the majority's religious practices underground.
In Baghdad, vendors overturned another prohibition from the Saddam era and began peddling whiskey and beer on the street.
There was an influx of necessities, too. A 50-truck convoy brought the first massive shipment of donated food to the capital, including flour. In southern Iraq, British and Iraqi workers reopened a rail line between the port city of Umm Qasr and Basra to spur humanitarian relief supplies to that region.
Elsewhere in Baghdad, a patrol from the Army's 3rd Infantry Division came across an estimated $650 million in U.S. currency, the LosAngeles Times reported yesterday.
In Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh, eight Middle Eastern states urged Washington to withdraw its troops from Iraq and keep its hands off the country's oil wealth. Foreign ministers of Iraq's immediate neighbors, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, as well as Egypt and Bahrain, said the United States had to restore order and then leave so that Iraqis could form their own government.
They issued a statement saying the Iraqi people must run their country and control the oil wealth.
"The Iraqi people should administer and govern their country by themselves, and any exploitation of their natural resources should be in conformity with the will of the legitimate Iraqi government and its people," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said, reading from a statement.
"If what they [the United States] intend is the exploitation of Iraqi oil, it will not have any legitimate basis," he said.
Washington says it intends to hand over control of Iraq to the Iraqi people after a period of control by a U.S.-led interim administration that will oversee reconstruction.

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