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Jordan gives asylum to two Hussein daughters

Associated Press

AMMAN, Jordan - Two of Saddam Hussein's daughters and their nine children received sanctuary yesterday in Jordan on humanitarian grounds, granted by King Abdullah II.

Raghad Saddam Hussein and Rana Saddam Hussein - who had reportedly been living in humble circumstances in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, since their father's ouster - arrived in the capital, Amman, yesterday, Information Minister Nabil al-Sharif said.

He refused to say whether they had traveled through a third country.

U.S. officials say they are closing in on Hussein, but it was not clear whether his daughters' departure from Iraq indicated the hunt was nearing an end. Hussein's elder sons, Odai and Qusai, were killed in a July 22 firefight with U.S. troops.

In Baghdad, U.S. military officials had no immediate comment. It was not clear whether the Americans had sought the daughters for questioning.

The two daughters had lived private lives and - unlike their brothers - were not believed to be wanted for crimes linked to their father's brutal regime. The women were seen by some as victims of Hussein, who ordered their husbands killed in 1996.

Al-Sharif said Hussein's daughters were allowed to come to the kingdom because they had "run out of all options."

The daughters had been estranged from their father for a time but were believed to have reconciled with Hussein in recent years.

A brother of their late husbands, Jamal Kamel, said the women "don't know anything about where their father could be. They're not interested in politics."

He said the women were in one of Jordan's palaces under the king's protection but refused to elaborate.

The whereabouts of Hussein's wife, Sajida Khairallah Telfah, and his fifth and youngest child, daughter Hala, are unknown.

Hala Saddam Hussein's husband, Gen. Kamal Mustafa Abdallah Sultan al-Tikriti, was No. 10 on the list of 55 most-wanted former officials of the regime. He surrendered to U.S. forces May 17, the U.S. Central Command said.

Hussein had a very public affair with Samira Shahbandar, daughter of a prominent Iraqi family, who has been described as his second wife. The two are rumored to have had a son.

Last month, a cousin of Hussein, Izzi-Din Mohammed Hassan al-Majid, had said he would try to help Raghad and Rana apply for asylum in Britain, where he lives. That prompted a statement from Prime Minister Tony Blair that Britain would not consider asylum applications from members of Hussein's family who might have committed human rights abuses.

Long accustomed to luxury, the women had been living with their nine children in a modest Baghdad home without electricity since their father's ouster, the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported June 1.

Their husbands - brothers Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel and Saddam Kamel, who were also Hussein's cousins - defected to Jordan in 1995 and announced plans to work to overthrow Hussein. The two were lured back to Iraq in February 1996 and killed.

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