First Published: 2003-12-17

Is he the real Saddam?

Austria's Haider says US may have arrested Saddam double, DNA tests do not prove conclusively they captured him.


Middle East Online

VIENNA - US troops may have arrested a double of Saddam Hussein and DNA testing does not prove conclusively that they have captured the Iraqi dictator, Austrian far-right firebrand Joerg Haider said late Tuesday.

Calling the capture "slapstick" and a "real scam", Haider told national ORF television: "This may be one of his many doubles."

"The saliva tests they did mean nothing if they did not have earlier specimens to which they could compare it," the controversial former leader of Austria's far-right Freedom Party added.

Haider visited Saddam in Baghdad in February 2002 and caused a stir on eve of the Iraq war when he said he was prepared to offer the Iraqi leader shelter.

On Tuesday he said he felt that morally there was little difference between Saddam and US President George W. Bush.

"I would be hard-pressed to choose between the two. Both have acted at odds with international law, committed human rights abuses. The one has the good luck to lead a superpower ... while the other was just a poor dictator.

Haider also said that Saddam was not the worst dictator in the world, or in the Middle East.

"In comparison with other dictators from China, and to Israel I have to say, it is difficult for me to see what the differences is."

When he visited Iraq, Haider declared that Bush was mistaken to place it alongside North Korea and Iran in the so-called "axis of evil" of states seeking nuclear arms.

It prompted US national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to complain to the then Austrian Vice-Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer.

Haider has retreated to provincial politics but is believed to still be the driving force behind the Freedom Party, which is the junior coalition party in the Austrian government.


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