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Ex-vice president of Iraq captured, turned over to U.S.

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON - One of Saddam Hussein's longest serving advisers, former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, was turned over to U.S. forces yesterday after his capture in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Ramadan was a chief enforcer of the former regime, known for his intimidation and brutality.

Ramadan, who once suggested that President Bush and Hussein engage in a duel, was No. 20 on the U.S. list of 55 most-wanted regime members. In the deck of cards issued to help troops spot fugitives, he was the 10 of diamonds.

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"I'm really pleased that we've captured the vice president," Bush told reporters in Texas just hours before an explosion tore through the United Nations compound in Baghdad. "Slowly but surely we'll find who we need to find. It's just a matter of time."

Ramadan surrendered Monday night to forces of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, said Adel Murad, a spokesman for the group in Baghdad. It developed initial information two weeks ago about Ramadan's presence and had been tracking him, Murad said. The group, founded in 1975 in the wake of an unsuccessful Kurdish rebellion, long opposed Hussein and allied with the United States during the war with Iraq. Its founder, Jalal Talabani, is now a leader in Iraq.

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Ramadan was taken without incident, Murad said. "He surrendered. He came out. All these killers, they cry, and they are nothing. ... He's not brave."

He said Ramadan was handed to U.S. troops yesterday to be held and possibly tried in Iraq.

Farhad Barzani, Washington representative for another major Kurdish group, the Kurdish Democratic Party, called Ramadan's capture "very, very important." His closeness to Hussein means Ramadan is likely to have inside information and may be able to reveal details about the hiding places used by Hussein and other fugitives, Barzani said.

Born in 1938 in Mosul to a peasant family, Ramadan was a bank teller before getting involved with the Baath Party in the mid-1950s, when he met Hussein. They participated in the 1968 coup that put the party in power and led to Hussein's presidency 11 years later. Ramadan subsequently served in a number of high-level positions in the government, though some reports assess that his influence had waned in recent years. Ramadan, who became vice president in 1991, was a foreign policy adviser and often traveled to other nations on Iraq's behalf.

He developed a reputation for brutality and is believed by many to have committed atrocities against the Kurds in the 1980s and against the Shiites after the Persian Gulf war in 1991.

In January, Ramadan summoned about 500 current and former weapons scientists to a meeting to warn them that they should not talk to United Nations inspectors without two witnesses and that they should not reveal anything new, several scientists in attendance said. Ramadan issued an implied threat, stressing that what he was telling the men came from the mouth of the president.

At the time, the U.N. Security Council had dispatched inspectors to Iraq in a last-ditch effort to seek Iraqi compliance with U.N. resolutions calling on Hussein to reveal his weapons of mass destruction programs.

Murad said the Kurds, who control an area of northern Iraq, will work to capture other Iraqi fugitives in the area between Mosul and Tikrit, Hussein's hometown.


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