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Saddam got key to Detroit after donations

Saddam donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Detroit church and received a key to the city more than two decades ago.

world Updated: Mar 27, 2003 10:15 IST

Saddam Hussein donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Detroit church and received a key to the city more than two decades ago, soon after he became president of Iraq.

The events contrast sharply with the attack Saddam's regime is now facing from a US-led coalition, reflecting his changed relationship with the United States since Washington helped Saddam covertly in his 1980-88 war with Iran.

Saddam's bond with Detroit started in 1979, when the Rev Jacob Yasso of Chaldean Sacred Heart congratulated Saddam on his presidency. In return, Yasso said, his church received $250,000.

"He was very kind person, very generous, very cooperative with the West. Lately, what's happened, I don't know," Yasso, 70, said on Wednesday. "Money and power changed the person."

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

Yasso said that at the time, Saddam made donations to Chaldean churches around the world.

"He's very kind to Christians," Yasso said.

Chaldeans are a Catholic group in predominantly Muslim Iraq. Among prominent Chaldeans is Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz.

A year later, Yasso travelled with about two dozen people to Baghdad as a guest of the Iraqi government, and they were invited to Saddam's palace.

"We were received on the red carpet," Yasso said.

First Published: Mar 27, 2003 10:15 IST