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Red Cross Representatives Visit Detained Iraqi Leader, Saddam Hussein - 2004-02-21

A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross says one of its teams has visited ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in U.S. custody, in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

Two Red Cross representatives visited the deposed leader somewhere in Iraq, where he is being held by U.S. officials as a prisoner of war. One member of the team was a physician, who performed a physical and a psychological evaluation of Saddam Hussein.

It was the first visit by the Red Cross, and they said the deposed leader passed on a written message to be delivered to his family. Red Cross officials said they plan to visit Saddam Hussein again, and will continue to do so, as long as he is in detention.

Saddam Hussein has been classified as a prisoner of war in U.S. custody since his capture near his hometown of Tikrit in December, where he was discovered hiding in a hole on a farm.

U.S. authorities reportedly gave the ICRC formal approval to visit the former leader a week ago.

Under the Geneva Convention, such visits are required by all sides in a war to verify that prisoners are being held in humane conditions. Also under terms of the agreements in the convention, the Red Cross does not comment on the conditions of the prisoner, or where the meetings take place.

Very little news of Saddam Hussein has been made public since his capture was announced in Baghdad by U.S. authorities. Many Iraqis want him to be handed over to a local war crimes tribunal, after power is transferred to Iraqis from U.S. custody.

Meanwhile, insurgents ambushed a U.S. military convoy south of Baghdad Saturday morning. The attackers opened fire from another vehicle, killing one Iraqi translator and wounding four U.S. soldiers.