CAIRO, Egypt (AP) – Libya, Mauritania, Egypt, Belarus, Cuba or North Korea – could one become Saddam Hussein’s next home?
Arab diplomats say the idea – which has not been publicly confirmed – has been presented to Saddam as a way out not only for him and his family, but also for his people, suffering for 12 years under punishing U.N. sanctions.
But denials have come as quickly as new countries are raised, and many experts say they do not believe Saddam will leave Iraq.
The United States has threatened war to topple Saddam, whom it accuses of hiding nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters in Washington this week that, “it would be a good idea if (Saddam) took the opportunity to leave.”
Arab leaders have tried before to lure Saddam into exile. In 1991, Egypt offered Saddam a haven to avert the Gulf War; he declined.
Some analysts believe there’s not enough pressure on the Iraqi leader to force him to consider such an option now. The Americans may have him in their gun sights, but the bombs have not started falling and there is no collective Arab and Western support for military action against him.
Arab leaders are urging the United States to give them one more opportunity to resolve the crisis peacefully.
“At least give us a chance,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud told NBC on Monday. “If in the final analysis we don’t succeed, those who are working for war can have their war as they please, which is going to be a catastrophe for the region.”
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak noted “Arab and non-Arab efforts being made to avert the war and to reach a formula that will be accepted by all parties without the use of force.”
Asked about reports of “the secret dispatch of emissaries to Baghdad” with proposals to end the crisis, Mubarak said, without denying the reports: “The era of secrets is over. Today’s world is a world with no secrets and everything is known, monitored and followed.” He spoke to Egyptian newspaper editors on a flight Tuesday from Saudi Arabia, where he had gone to consult on Iraq.