Saddam's daughters will not be given political asylum, says Britain

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The daughters of Saddam Hussein, whose husbands were killed on their father's orders, will not be given political asylum in Britain, the Government said yesterday.

But there was confusion over whether the two women would be allowed to make an application for refuge. The Prime Minister's spokesman said that such a claim would not be considered, only to be contradicted by the Home Office minister Beverley Hughes, who said that applications must go through the normal channels.

There have also been unconfirmed reports that Sajida, Saddam's wife and the mother of his sons Uday and Qusay, wants to settle in Britain.

The daughters, Raghad Hassan, 35, and RanaHassan, 33, are believed to be living in northern Iraq. A cousin of Saddam, Izzi-Din Mohammed Hassan al-Majid, who returned to Britain from Iraq yesterday, said he would start the process for them to seek asylum.

Mr Majid fled Iraq in 1995 and returned after the overthrow of the regime. He said the two women would like to live in Leeds, where he had settled.

"Saddam's daughters had British schools and hospitals in mind when they decided to ask for asylum - especially the schools. All the children have been away from school for a year and they need to catch up on their education," Mr Majid was quoted as telling The Sun. "Both would like to live next to each other, in Leeds, near me.

"So far as the money goes, they are in a really bad way. They would definitely need financial help. I believe the UK government will take them in because they have always been known to protect people and give them asylum."

The women have been offered asylum in Egypt, Qatar and Abu Dhabi. But Mr Majid insisted they would be in danger if they stayed in the region. "They believe if they stay in the Middle East they will still be in range of people seeking revenge for Saddam's tyranny."

Lawyers for the women are expected to argue that Britain owed them a "duty of care" because their husbands provided details of Saddam's chemical and biological programmes to intelligence agents after defecting from Iraq in the mid-Nineties.

Tony Blair's spokesman said yesterday: "We will not consider asylum claims from his daughters, wife or any other members of his family who might have been involved in human rights abuse".

However, Ms Hughes said: "As I understand, those people are not even in the country at the moment. Were they to get to this country, if they made a claim it would go through a normal process. But we are not in the business of giving asylum in any way connected with a barbarous regime ... We are not in the business of giving asylum to members of Saddam Hussein's family."

Oliver Letwin, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "This is an extraordinary development. All right-minded people in Britain would be horrified. I sincerely hope that the Home Office will not entertain the idea seriously."

Raghad was married to Hussein Kamel Hassan, a former army driver who became a Saddam loyalist and was made a Republican Guard general. He played a prominent part in putting down the Shia rebellion that followed Iraq's defeat in the 1991 Gulf War. Rana was married to Kamel's brother Saddam.

The marriage brought President Saddam the support of the brothers' powerful clan. After bitter and prolonged rivalry with Saddam's son Uday, Kamel and Saddam fled to Jordan, taking their wives and families with them. Kamel provided Western intelligence services and the United Nations with details of the Iraqi regime's chemical and biological programmes.

But, disillusioned with their life in exile and seduced by offers of clemency, the brothers returned to Iraq in 1995. They were killed by members of their own family, on the orders, it is believed, of Saddam Hussein. Since then, Raghad and Rana have been living near Tikrit, their clan's hometown, without playing any part in public life and with little contact with their father or brothers.

Saddam's third and youngest daughter, Hala, is married to General Kamal Mustapha Abdallah Sultan al-Tikriti, who was number 10 in the American list of the 55 most wanted former officials of the regime. He surrendered to the Allied forces on 17 May.