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US, Iraqi commanders engage in secret negotiations: Report

US officers are engaged in secret talks with some Iraqi commanders to isolate Saddam, a report said.

india Updated: Mar 22, 2003 11:38 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

US military and intelligence officers are engaged in secret contacts with some Iraqi commanders seeking to isolate President Saddam Hussein within his inner circle,

The Washington Post

reported on Friday.

"There are lots of people, all trying to give the Iraqi commanders options and ways to end the resistance," one senior US official reportedly told the Post on Thursday.

They have reportedly designated buildings in Baghdad where defectors will be safe from US air strikes, the Post quoted senior US officials as saying.

While the US operatives have obtained assurances from some Iraqi commanders that they will not fire chemical weapons at US ground forces, a Republican Guard unit outside Baghdad is believed to have been issued artillery shells filled with chemical agents, the report added.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said US-led forces unleashed their so-called "shock and awe" attack on Baghdad late on Friday only after the administration failed to determine whether Saddam survived a surgical strike on Thursday and it was evident he was not going to quit Iraq.

US officials believe Saddam is losing his iron grip and see him as vulnerable to attack either because of intercepted communications or spies in his inner circle, a message the first strikes were also intended to convey.

US intelligence has reported a marked decline in communications between the senior leadership and military commanders.

First Published: Mar 22, 2003 11:26 IST