US offered to exile Saddam in return for his curbing insurgents

The United States offered to let Saddam Hussein live in exile like Napoleon on St. Helena if he would use his influence to end the Iraqi insurgency, a lawyer for the deposed leader said Thursday.

Lawyer Saleh al-Armouti told The Associated Press that when he met Saddam in prison in Baghdad last month, he said the Americans had offered to "treated him like Napoleon," whom the British imprisoned on St. Helena island in the Atlantic ocean in the 19th Century, "if he called on the resistance to end its activities."

Al-Armouti reported Saddam as saying the Americans had told him that if he turned down the offer, there was an alternative. "The other offer was for him to be treated like Mussolini," al-Armouti said, referring to the Italian dictator who was shot by partisans in the last days of World War II.

A US military spokesman in Baghdad, LTC Barry Johnson, dismissed the lawyer's report.

"This claim is completely unfounded and, frankly, rather ridiculous," Johnson said. "This appears to be some vain attempt by a lawyer to make it look as if Saddam still has some power or authority over people, which he doesn't.

"All he has is lawyers," Johnson added.

Al-Armouti, the head of the Jordanian Bar Association, joined Saddam's defense team in December, but was ordered out of court on Jan. 29 after arguing with the judge. Subsequently, the other defense counsel left the court and, after another argument, the judge ordered Saddam to leave.

Al-Armouti said Thursday that the lawyers will not attend the next hearing, which is slated for Monday, unless the chief judge, Raouf Abdel-Rahman, is replaced. The defense counsel boycotted the past two hearings, demanding Abdel-Rahman's dismissal.

"I call for his dismissal because he is completely biased," al-Armouti said. "He should be referred to court, to a disciplinary council and tried."

Abdel-Rahman has appointed new defense lawyers and continued with the trial. Last week, he told the court he had received no motion demanding his removal and did not address the charges of bias.

Al-Armouti said Saddam spends his time in U.S. military detention reading the Quran, the Islamic holy book, writing poetry, novels and his memoirs, reports AP.

O.Ch.