Gemayel on mission to ask Saddam to resign

March 11, 2003

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PARIS, March 10: France’s secret services have revealed that former Lebanese president Amin Gemayel has been charged with a special mission by the United States and “unspecified” Arab countries to persuade Saddam Hussein to quietly resign and go into exile.

For the moment, say the sources, the Iraqi head of state has refused to listen to such suggestions, in spite of a long meeting that took place between the two men in Bagdad in late February.

Mr Gemayel, who was president of Lebanon between 1982 and 1988 and who has always maintained excellent relations with the US government and notably the family of President George Bush senior, has been quoted by French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche as saying that he met with Saddam Hussein “two weeks ago,” but he refused to admit that he was there on behalf of President George W Bush, at least officially so.

Other French sources who met with Mr Gemayel in Paris on his way back from Washington in late February, said not only did the former Lebanese president meet President Jacques Chirac, but he did not hide the existence of a special mission he was undertaking on behalf of the US, specifically Condoleezza Rice, President Bush’s national security adviser.

Mr Gemayel is also said by the French sources to have returned to Europe after his meeting with Saddam Hussein, to see Vatican officials in Rome and French authorities, including Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin.