RIYADH, Dec 18: In the wake of the arrest of Saddam Hussein, conspiracy theories are rife here. The picture of a palm tree with ripe dates near the mud hole where Saddam Hussein was hiding has given rise to speculation that the arrest may have taken place two months ago, the Saudi daily Arab News said on Thursday quoting the Okaz daily.

“The yellowish dates in the picture behind two American soldiers show that Saddam was not present there at this time of year,” Okaz reported. “The picture shows that the capture of Saddam would have taken place two months ago,” the paper said.

Many Arabs have been spreading this theory through the Internet. A person, who identified himself as Sunaid Quraish, asked: “Does the presence of a palm tree with ripe dates in the place where Saddam was arrested have any special significance? Was he captured months ago? Is there some scandalous story behind the capture?”

Adel wrote in his e-mail message: “The Americans forgot about the dates when they staged the drama but the date season ended months ago.”

Many Arabs, however, refused to get involved in this particular theory. Abu Mishaal pointed out that the uniforms, which the soldiers were wearing, indicated that the capture took place in winter. Al-Watan newspaper, quoting its Baghdad reporter, said the Iraqis had paid no attention to the date theory.

Hatem Al-Natour, an agriculture engineer at the Arabian Company for Agricultural Systems in Riyadh, said ripe dates could be seen on date palms in summer.

Muhammad Al-Dossary, however, who has been involved in date cultivation in the Aflaj region for several years, pointed out that there is only a special kind of date, “hilali”, which yields its fruits at this time of year.

Iraq is the native place of hilali dates which are now found in Saudi Arabia and other countries, Dossary told Al-Eqtisadiah daily. “Even yesterday I ate hilali dates taken from the tree,” he said.

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