Ahmed al-Zubeidi, an under-secretary of the Trade Ministry, is trying to calm the fears of Jordanian-based traders who are Iraq's only source of food and medicine while UN sanctions cut off normal trade, the businessmen said.
Iraq's drastically curtailed imports ground to a halt this week after reports of the executions. According to Jordanian businessmen, about 12 Iraqi traders remained in Jordan, too terrified to return home. For nearly two weeks, reports reaching Amman have said 42 prominent businessmen were executed in Baghdad and more than 500 others detained on charges of profiteering.
But now another version of the story has emerged. It says the 42 businessmen were killed on 25 July during an argument with President Saddam's half-brother, the Interior Minister, Wathban Ibrahim al-Hassan, according to a traveller from Baghdad who is knowledgeable about government affairs. He said they were among 48 businessmen summoned to Mr Hassan's office.
The traveller's story was confirmed by three other sources. All spoke on condition of anonymity. However, one of the sources said only 28 were killed and the other 20 were seriously wounded.