Saddam Hussein and his two sons may be alive and hiding in north-east Baghdad, the Iraqi opposition leader has said. However, Ahmad Chalabi said he could not confirm where the Iraqi leader may be. Russian officials have strongly denied claims that Saddam Hussein is hiding in their embassy in Baghdad. They said the reports “absolutely do not and cannot correspond with reality”.
Reports from Lebanon suggested Saddam was trying to negotiate a deal allowing him to go free in return for surrendering.
They came after a stament from the speaker of the Lebanese parliament, Nabih Berri. He pointed out that Russian ambassador Vladimir Titorenko had left Baghdad on Saturday.
Titorenko arrived in Damascus, Syria, on Monday, claiming that US forces had fired on his diplomatic convoy as it left Baghdad. He returned to the Iraqi capital on Tuesday, apparently to bring out an embassy driver wounded in the incident and a diplomat who stayed to look after the hospitalised victim.
“Saddam Hussein could have found refuge in the Russian embassy in Baghdad,” Berri told journalists, giving no further backing for his statement. Russia’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the claim.
“Such statements absolutely do not and cannot correspond with reality,” spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said. “This is an attempt yet another time to place the Russian Embassy in Baghdad under threat.”
Unidentified diplomatic sources in Moscow told Russian news agencies the ambassador and his two charges crossed back into Syria early on Wednesday and were met by embassy staff in the capital Damascus.
The reports come as speculation over Saddam’s fate continues. British intelligence officials believe he escaped America’s devastating bomb attack on a building where the Iraqi leader was thought to be meeting.
They say he may have left minutes before four 2,000lb bombs obliterated the restaurant in the al-Mansour district of Baghdad on Monday.
But US officials are reported to have said there is a “strong chance” Saddam and his sons were killed.
Senior US officials told Fox News: “There’s a strong chance we got Saddam and probably both sons.”
US President George Bush said on Tuesday that Saddam’s fate remained unknown.
“I don’t know whether he survived,” President Bush said.