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'Saddam hid US$40 billion'
( 2003-12-31 09:30) (Agencies)

Saddam Hussein withdrew US$2 billion from Iraqi banks last spring, including a sizable withdrawal a week after the fall of Baghdad, according to a member of the Iraq Governing Council.

Dr. Iyad Allawi -- in an interview with CNN Tuesday -- elaborated on reports published Monday in two Arabic newspapers on what he says interrogators are learning from Saddam since his capture earlier this month.

Allawi said the governing council has possession of documents signed by the former Iraqi dictator two weeks before the war began authorizing the bank withdrawal. It was unclear how the money was taken from the bank after coalition troops took Baghdad.

Allawi said Saddam admitted he invested stolen Iraqi money -- which the Iraq Governing Council estimates at US$40 billion -- in Switzerland, Japan and Germany, among others, under fictitious company names.

Saddam's confession also included the names of people involved in terrorist attacks against coalition forces, Allawi said. He said hundreds of Iraqis have surrendered in the days since Saddam's capture because they knew he had given interrogators their names.

The council member earlier told Arabic dailies Asharq Al-Awsat and Al-Hayat that Saddam had revealed the names of those who knew the locations of weapon arsenals that were being used to attack coalition troops. 

Allawi, who is heading security issues at the Iraqi council, estimated the number of foreign fighters in Iraq at more than 5,000, including some al Qaeda members.

He said coalition officials keep governing council members updated on the revelations from their interrogation of Saddam.

Allawi said although Saddam's confessions have covered a number of important issues, he can't yet discuss what has been said about weapons of mass destruction.

Allawi was quoted by the Arabic papers saying, "Saddam Hussein's trial would not be public since he could name countries and persons whom he gave money."

In Baghdad Tuesday, Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor would not comment on Allawi's claims, referring reporters' questions to the governing council.

Saddam surrendered to U.S. troops December 13 from the bottom of a narrow, dark hole beneath a two-room mud shack on a sheep farm in Adwar, about 15 kilometers (nine miles) from Tikrit, Saddam's ancestral home.

Soldiers also recovered two AK 47 rifles, US$750,000 in US$100 denominations and a white and orange taxi in the raid.

U.S. officials said they focused on the farm based on a collection of intelligence gathered from the hostile questioning of Saddam's former bodyguards and family members.

The documents captured with Saddam have shed more light on the resistance, according to U.S. officials.

Roadside bomb kills Iraqi

Meanwhile, a roadside bomb attack on a U.S. military convoy in the heart of Baghdad early Tuesday killed one Iraqi and wounded three others, a senior Iraqi police official said.

An improvised explosive device was detonated as the convoy drove by at about 8:50 a.m. (12:50 a.m. ET).

The attack marks the second time in three days that Iraqi insurgents have targeted a U.S. convoy in the heart of the capital.

A U.S. soldier and two children died Sunday when another bomb detonated along a crowded roadside in Baghdad.

U.S.: Al Qaeda affiliates killed in Mosul

Three suspected members of Islamic militant group Ansar Al Islam, which Washington says is an affiliate of al Qaeda, were killed in a firefight with U.S. troops in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul overnight Sunday, a U.S. military spokesman said Monday in Baghdad.

Two U.S. soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division were wounded in the clash but are in stable condition, Maj. Trey Cate of the 101st Airborne told CNN.

The gunfight erupted when troops raided a house in Mosul and came under attack from assault rifles and grenades, Cate said. Five Iraqis -- a man, a woman and three children -- were detained and have been handed over to the Iraqi police, Cate said.

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