The feud in Saddam Hussein's family has deepened with the denunciation by Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, half-brother of the Iraqi leader, of President Saddam's son Uday as "greedy and unfit for power". He said in an interview yesterday that Lieutenant General Hussein Kamel Hassan, the son-in-law of President Saddam who defected to Jordan last month, was no better than Uday and both were "unaware of their limitations".
Barzan Ibrahim, 44, is the eldest of President Saddam's three half-brothers and since 1989 he has controlled Iraq's external finances from Geneva, where he is nominally Iraq's permanent representative to the UN. The irony of his appointment did not escape opponents of the Iraqi regime who pointed out that as the former head of the Mukhabarat (intelligence service), Barzan had a reputation for cruelty extreme even by the standards of his family.
Denying he planned to defect, Barzan told the London-based daily al- Hayat, "If everyone knew their own size and ability, any problems would be avoided. The direction towards the inheritance of power in Iraq is unacceptable".
This is clearly a reference to Uday, whom President Saddam has increasingly treated as his heir apparent. Uday is at the centre of the rift which has torn apart the President's family. His erratic violence is directed at members of the family circle, which had hitherto been largely untouched. At the time of Hussein Kamel's defection, Uday or his bodyguards shot Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan, another half-brother of the President, through the leg. Four Cuban doctors are reportedly in Baghdad to operate on the leg.
The difficulty for the Iraqi leader is that without his half-brothers and his sons-in-law, his power base will be limited to his sons Uday and Qusai, head of the security service which watches the other services.
The timing of Barzan's interview has caused surprise in Amman since his wife and son are still visiting Baghdad and were expected to leave in the next few days. Since Hussein Kamel's flight on 8 August no prominent Iraqis have been allowed to leave the country without permission from President Saddam. Barzan may assume his immediate family will be allowed to leave because he does not directly attack the President.
"Iraq needs somebody to be a focus for power, someone who can gather people round him. The regime won't fall and Saddam will resist to the last bullet in his gun," Barzan said. This seems to keep the door open for Barzan to reach an accommodation with his half-brother if Uday is removed from power.
Barzan is accused by opponents of the regime of crimes such as arranging for the disappearance of several thousand members of the tribe of the Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani in 1982. But to his extended family he may appear as one of the few who might be able to replace President Saddam and hold on to power.
t Iraqi opposition figures hoping to invite General Hussein Kamel to Britain cancelled a meeting in London yesterday after failing to get backing from the main Iraqi opposition groups. They refused to endorse him, saying he was not in opposition to the regime.