Saddam's enemies rally in UK

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The Independent Online
SUPPORTERS of General Hussein Kamel, the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein who defected to Jordan, have called a meeting in London of all Iraqi opposition groups on Thursday to co-ordinate efforts to overthrow the Iraqi leader. They expect the meeting to pave the way for a new opposition front to be based in Jordan.

Hussein Kamel, Saddam's closest lieutenant until he fled the country on 8 August, wants to use the meeting to reassure opponents of the Iraqi government that he is committed to establishing democracy in Iraq. He weants to come to London, but there are doubts his visit could be arranged by Thursday.

Hishan al-Juburi, who represents him in the UK, says: "I have a clear message from Hussein Kamel that he is committed to real elections, an elected presidency, parliamentary government and guaranteed human rights."

Many members of the deeply fragmented opposition are coming to believe, although they mistrust Hussein Kamel as a member of Saddam's family, that they must co-operate with him in order to bring down the regime. Mr Juburi believes that Saddam will be overthrown sooner rather than later, because the Iraqi leader's "inner core of security men were appointed by Hussein Kamel".

A preliminary meeting of the Iraqi opposition held in London on Friday night was largely in favour of closer contacts with the General, according to those attending. The Iraqi National Congress, formed after the Gulf war to unite Kurds, Shia Muslims, Communists and other opponents of the regime, is moribund, and its leader, Ahmed Chelabi, has moved to London from Kurdistan.

Mr Juburi, a former Iraqi intelligence officer who left Iraq after a failed coup attempt in 1990, says an effective effort to overthrow Saddam must be based in Jordan, because "this is the main door to Iraq". He says this is now possible after King Hussein's speech on Thursday denouncing the Iraqi leader.

Other Iraqi opponents of the regime admit Hussein Kamel knows exactly how Saddam's security system works, including the location of his numerous secret headquarters. They add, however, that his value will soon diminish, as Saddam is weeding out men he thinks disloyal. "Hussein Kamel will have to act in two or three months, not later," says one exile.

Despite deep differences, the Iraqi opposition groups may be prepared to act together if the end of the regime appears imminent. Mr Juburi says: "It is also important to send a message to the inner group around Saddam that, if they come over to us, they will be safe." The regime has played on the fears of army officers and the Sunni Muslim establishment that they would not survive Saddam's fall.