Jordan stands by Saddam daughter despite Iraq extradition call

AMMAN, July 3, 2006 (AFP) – US ally Jordan is insisting that deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s eldest daughter remains under its protection, despite calls from the US-backed authorities in Baghdad for her extradition.

Jordanian Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit stressed that no formal extradition request had yet been received from Iraq following national security advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie’s identification Sunday of Raghdad Saddam Hussein as his country’s 16th most wanted fugitive.

Bakhit said the ousted Iraqi president’s daughter had complied with the conditions of her asylum in Jordan and remained under the protection of the reigning Hashemite royal family of King Abdullah II.

"She is the guest of the Hashemite royal family and under its protection as a seeker of asylum" in accordance with Arab tradition, he told the official Petra news agency.

Raghad had heeded demands that she refrain from "any political or media activities", the premier added, contradicting accusations by Rubaie that she was a "significant financial supporter of insurgents in Iraq".

"These people are responsible for most of the bombings and indiscriminate killings aimed at hurting the Iraqi people and starting a sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites," the Iraqi official had said in Baghdad as he presented a new 41-strong "wanted" list.

The list included Saddam’s wife Sajida, who lives in exile in the Gulf state of Qatar, as well as the Amman-based Raghad.

But the ousted Iraqi leader’s defence team dismissed the accusations against the two women as "totally without legal basis".

Lead counsel Khalil al-Dulaimi described the accusations of bankrolling the insurgency levelled against Saddam’s daughter as absurd, arguing that "if she had the financial means, she would have financially supported the defence team".

The new Iraqi wanted list was topped by Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, who was number two in Iraq’s Revolution Command Council in Saddam’s regime and is the highest ranking former official still on the run.

The United States has a 10-million-dollar bounty on Duri, who is said to be suffering from leukaemia and who has in the past been reported to have died or been captured.

"He is likely still an operation leader with close ties to other insurgents," according to the list.

Rubaie had made a strong call for regional support in rounding up fugitive suspects.

"Neighbouring countries must help Iraq and hand over those terrorists living within their territories," he said.

"Those who are outside must be handed over to Iraqi justice. We have evidence on every single one of them."

Jordan has had sometimes difficult relations with the Shiite-led government installed in Iraq after the US-led invasion of 2003.

The prominent role played by some Jordanians in the Sunni Arab insurgency, most notoriously the late Al-Qaeda frontman Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has fanned anti-Jordanian sentiment among Iraq’s newly empowered Shiite majority.

King Abdullah has also angered the Iraqi authorities by warning of the mounting influence of Shiite Iran in Jordan’s eastern neighbour.

Many on the new wanted list were officials of the old regime who featured in a US "deck of cards" of its 55 most wanted suspects unveiled after the 2003 invasion but who have yet to be captured.

The list also includes Al-Qaeda’s new Iraq frontman Abu Hamza al-Muhajer at number 30 with a 50,000-dollar price on his head, as well as Abdullah al-Janabi, the former head of the Mujahedeen Shura (consultative) Council, an Al-Qaeda-led insurgent alliance.

The US State Department authorised a reward of up to five million dollars on Friday for information leading to the capture of Abu Ayub al-Masri, whom it believes is the same person as Abu Hamza.

Two of those named on the new list and now living abroad said they had nothing to hide.

Mudhir Abed al-Karim Dhiab Abed Al-Kharbit, now in Syria, is accused of involvement in the UN Oil-for-food programme and is listed for reportedly funding insurgents in Al-Anbar province.

There is a reward of 50,000 dollars for information leading to his arrest.

"It is just a political game being played by Rubaie and others", he told AFP.

In Beirut, Lebanese Maan Bashur on Monday denied charges of recruiting fighters in Lebanon for Iraq but insisted that his organisation was assisting the insurgency "politically".

The Arab nationalist activist was named for being "a prominent Lebanese Baathist" who "has openly recruited fighters in Lebanon for Iraq".

Bashur denied the charges as "baseless".

"In our backing to the resistance in Iraq, we have been focusing on the popular and political aspects, and not any other. Our campaign is a political action," he said.