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Saddam Might Agree to Exile, says Rumsfeld; Other US Officials Skeptical - 2003-01-19

White House officials have indicated they are skeptical Saddam Hussein will ever relinquish power peacefully. But Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld believes there is a possibility the Iraqi president might agree to go into exile.

Mr. Rumsfeld says there is always a chance Saddam Hussein might leave Iraq.

During an appearance on the ABC television program This Week, the secretary of defense was asked if the United States might offer immunity from war crimes prosecution as an incentive.

He said that is a matter for President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft to decide. But Mr. Rumsfeld made clear he would not be opposed. "To avoid a war, I would personally recommend that some provision be made so that the senior leadership in that country and their families could be provided haven in some other country," he said.

On NBC's Meet the Press, White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice added a note of caution. "I just think that it is unlikely that this man is going to come down in any other way than to be forced," she said.

There have been several reports in recent weeks of efforts to convince Saddam Hussein to go into exile. None have been confirmed.