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Saddam's Daughters Express Love for Dad

Saddam's Daughters Express Love for Dad

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AMMAN, Jordan (AP) -- Saddam Hussein's daughters, in interviews Friday, expressed deep affection for their father but said they don't know where he is and last saw him a week before the Iraq war started.

Raghad Saddam Hussein and Rana Hussein, who received sanctuary a day earlier in Jordan, appeared relaxed as they spoke with CNN and the Arab satellite station Al-Arabiya at a royal palace in Amman, where they are staying with their nine children.

They described tearfully leaving Baghdad for a house on its outskirts the day the capital fell to coalition forces on April 9.

"The farewell moments were terrible," Raghad told Al-Arabiya.

The sisters were poised but appeared to choke up somewhat as they talked about their family.

"He was a very good father, loving, has a big heart," Raghad, wearing a fashionable white headscarf showing part of her light brown hair, told CNN. Asked if she wanted to give a message to her father, she said: "I love you and I miss you."

"He had so many feelings and he was very tender with all of us," Rana said in the same interview. "Usually the daughter is close to her mother, but we would usually go to him. He was our friend."

They refused to discuss their brothers Odai and Qusai, who were killed in a shootout with U.S. forces in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on July 22.

The daughters said they don't know the whereabouts of their father.

"Nobody knows where he is. Nobody tells me that," Raghad told CNN. "He's not going to tell anybody where he is now, even my mother."

In Iraq, U.S. forces grabbed two "important associates of the former regime" in a raid in which they seized documents and photographs they hoped would help the search for Saddam. Also, a new audiotape attributed to the former dictator urged Iraqis to join the anti-American insurgency and vowed Saddam would return to power "at any moment."

The military did not identify the captives taken in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit.

"I think it does bring us closer," to capturing Saddam, Lt. Col. Steve Russell said. "We believe the information they may possess will further help destroy the regime."

Saad Silawi, one of two Al-Arabiya interviewers, said Raghad, who cried at the end of the segment, told him she did not want to answer questions about her father and brothers and that criticism of Saddam would make her acquaintances lose respect for her.

Before arriving in Jordan, Raghad and Rana had reportedly been living in humble circumstances in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, since their father's ouster.

The two daughters had lived private lives and -- unlike their brothers -- were not believed to be wanted for crimes linked to their father's brutal regime. Instead, the women were seen by some as victims of Saddam, who ordered their husbands killed in 1996.

Raghad told Al-Arabiya that the swift fall of the Iraqi capital came as a "great shock" and she blamed it on a betrayal by associates of the deposed leader.

"With regret, those my father trusted, whom he had put his absolute confidence in and whom he had considered on his side -- as I understood from the newspapers -- betrayed him," Raghad said.

She did not say who betrayed Saddam in the portion of the interview broadcast.

Rana said she last saw her father a week before the war started.

Raghad said she spent the night before Baghdad fell listening to the radio in the upscale Mansour district of the Iraqi capital in the company of Rana and their children.

"I used to pray and then tell my sister Rana, 'I think that everything is over,' " she said. "I was convinced that everything was over."

At noon the day Baghdad fell, Rana said her father sent a car from the special security forces, "who told us to leave." She said Qusai's wife and children were with them.

"The boys were hugging each other and crying," Rana said. "We left Baghdad. Then I met my mother after a few hours and Hala (younger sister)."

She said they were put in a house on Baghdad's outskirts. "There was almost no link with (my) father and brothers because everything was over."

A teenage son of Qusai's was killed in the shootout in Mosul, but it was not clear if he was among those at the meeting she described.

Saddam and his wife, Sajida Khairallah Telfah, had three daughters and two sons.

Saddam also had a very public affair with Samira Shahbandar, daughter of a prominent Iraqi family, who has been described as his second wife. They were believed to have a son, Ali, who would be Saddam's youngest son. Ali kept a low profile.

Raghad said they hope to stay in Jordan.

"For the first time for four months now, since the war started, this is the first day I put my head on the pillow and I feel at peace," she told CNN. "I'd love to stay in Jordan. I'd like to stay here for the rest of my life."

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

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