DUBAI (Reuters) – Deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had secretly accepted a last-minute plan to go into exile to avert the 2003 Iraq war, but Arab leaders shot the proposal down, Al Arabiya television reported on Friday.
UAE President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan made the proposal for Saddam to go into exile at an emergency Arab summit just weeks before the U.S.-led war began in March 2003.
But the 22-member Arab League, led by Secretary-General Amr Moussa, refused to consider the initiative.
"We had got the final agreement from the different parties, the main players in the world and the person concerned — Saddam Hussein — within 24 hours," Mohammed bin Zayed, deputy head of the UAE armed forces and crown prince of Abu Dhabi, told the UAE-based channel in a documentary.
"So we were coming to put facts on the table, and there would have been results had it been discussed," he said.
Egypt”s President Hosni Mubarak says in the documentary that the United States had signaled its support for the proposal.
The documentary says the Iraqi delegation at the summit in Egypt had been unaware of Saddam”s "secret consent" to the plan, which Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri dismissed as "silly."
It was not clear why Arab opposition alone scuppered the arrangements, which Al Arabiya said would have seen Saddam go into UAE exile with a promise of protection from legal action.
Saddam and seven other senior figures under his rule this month went on trial in Baghdad for crimes against humanity over the killing of 148 Shi”ite men from the town of Dujail.
The United States led a coalition to topple Saddam, saying he was hiding weapons of mass destruction. None were ever found.
The war, an ongoing insurgency against occupying troops and the U.S.-backed authorities, and an explosion of crime amid the post-war disorder has cost thousands of lives.