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Monday, 7 September 2009

France plotted to save allies in Saddam Hussein's regime

Paris considered protecting two of Saddam Hussein's top aides just three months before the allied invasion of Iraq, according to the notes of a retired French spymaster.

Just as President Jacques Chirac was vehemently arguing against invading Iraq in late 2002, General Philippe Rondot wrote that he had been given the green light to "recover" top officials including Tariq Aziz, Saddam's foreign minister.

Previously unseen extracts of Gen Rondot's private diaries were reprinted in the newspaper Libération.

In a passage dated Dec 3, 2002, the general refers to an "agreement in principle to 'recover' if necessary Mr Aziz and Al-Rafai" – said to be a senior Ba'ath Party politician.

The two men were believed to have been considered useful to the French while Gen Rondot knew Aziz well. The two governments also had a history of shared business interests.

Three weeks later Gen Rondot met Mr Chirac's chief of staff and wrote: "Iraq situation report: exfiltration of personalities: ex Tareq [sic] Aziz, sources, engineers. My trip to the zone, mid-January."

Then on Jan 2, 2003, he met the then French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin, famed for his fierce opposition to the imminent US-led invasion at the United Nations Security Council.

After the meeting, he noted: "Informed of my projects on S. Hussein." More