- The Washington Times - Monday, December 29, 2003

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — Saddam Hussein has given his U.S. captors information on hidden weapons and as much as $40 billion he may have seized while he was Iraq’s president, an Iraqi official was quoted as saying yesterday.

“Saddam has confessed the names of people he told to keep the money and he gave names of those who have information on equipment and weapons warehouses,” Iyad Allawi, a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, told the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat daily.

“The Governing Council is searching for $40 billion worth of funds seized by Saddam when he was in power and which has been deposited in Switzerland, Japan, Germany and other countries under the names of fictitious companies,” he said.

Mr. Allawi said the council had asked international legal companies to track the money.

Earlier this month, Iraq’s finance minister said his country was preparing to demand about $3 billion in cash held in Syrian state banks under deals struck with Saddam’s government.

A Syrian official, however, said the amount was in the millions, not billions, Reuters news agency reported. Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Fayssal Mekdad, said yesterday that his country would cooperate in helping Iraq recover any funds.

In the newspaper interview, Mr. Allawi said interrogators were focusing on whether Saddam — arrested by U.S. forces this month and held at an undisclosed site — had any links to terrorist groups.

The capture of Saddam has not ended guerrilla activity in Iraq, which U.S. officials believe involves non-Iraqi militant Islamist guerrillas and Saddam loyalists. However, it has led to better cooperation of Iraqis with coalition forces.

In Saddam’s hometown, Tikrit, influential spiritual leaders from the Sunni Muslim minority said yesterday that they are joining forces to persuade Iraqis to abandon the violent insurgency.

Sheik Sabah Mahmoud, leader of the Sada tribe, told the Associated Press that he and 10 other tribal elders have formed a reconciliation committee in Tikrit to speak to other Iraqi leaders about trying to persuade rebels to put down their weapons.

“It’s about time we put our differences aside and looked to the future,” Mr. Mahmoud said. “I told them, ‘The reality is they (American forces) are here on the ground; the past is dead. Give the Americans a chance to see what they are going to give us.’”

Sunnis ruled Iraq for centuries and dominated the country under Saddam’s regime, filling high-ranking positions and reaping economic benefits. But they make up only 20 percent of Iraq’s 25 million people, and are concentrated in Baghdad and villages to the north and west.

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