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Saddam Carried Off $1 Billion

Saddam Carried Off $1 Billion

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(AP) -- Saddam Hussein ordered that nearly $1 billion be taken from Iraq's Central Bank shortly before the United States began bombing Baghdad, and sent his son Qusai to grab the cash in the middle of the night, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The amount of money -- some $900 million in U.S. $100 bills and $100 million in euros -- was so large it had to be taken from the bank in three tractor trailers, The New York Times reported.

Qusai, Saddam's younger son, and Abid al-Haimd Mahmood, Saddam's personal assistant, organized the removal of the cash, the Times report said, quoting an Iraqi banking official who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from Saddam's Baath Party.

The operation, which the Iraqi official said took place at 4 a.m. on March 18, was confirmed by U.S. Treasury official George Mullinax, who is assigned to help rebuild Iraq's banking system.

It was not known where the money was taken. A U.S. Army Special Forces officer, Col. Ted Seel, said intelligence indicated that a convoy of tractor trailers crossed the border into Syria, but that the contents of the trucks was unknown, the Times report said.

Other key developments concerning Iraq:

-- Organized crime was involved in the looting of Iraq's national museum and the United States will fully back international efforts to retrieve the stolen artifacts, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft told an Interpol meeting in Lyon, France, on Tuesday.

-- After more than 100 days at sea, the launching of more than 5,300 sorties and the loss of just one pilot, the USS Kitty Hawk and a pair of ships from its battle group returned home to a boisterous welcome at Yokosuka, Japan.

-- A top Iraqi scientist is in U.S. custody, according to Washington officials who suspect she has information about banned biological weapons. U.S.-educated Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, detained Sunday, is the 19th of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis to be arrested.

-- One day after coalition forces announced Baghdad police were back on the beat, many officers appeared to have abandoned their stations -- often to the looters they were supposed to catch.

-- A "nucleus of leadership" in Iraq may be in place within days to guide the country through the decisive selection of an interim government, said Jay Garner, the U.S. civil administrator for Iraq.

-- Iraq's third-largest city, Mosul, named a cross-section of residents to run the city alongside the American military until elections can be held.

-- Baghdad's airport is expected to be running by the end of the month, U.S. military officers say, but American planners have yet to announce when a full-scale, civilian-run operation will reopen.

-- Alarmed by reports of widespread looting at Iraq's main nuclear site, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog has asked the United States to let it send a mission to the facility, a spokeswoman said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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