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The WaPo on this topic:

Report Says Hussein Was Open To Exile Before 2003 Invasion - washingtonpost.com

Less than a month before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein signaled that he was willing to go into exile as long as he could take with him $1 billion and information on weapons of mass destruction, according to a report of a Feb. 22, 2003, meeting between President Bush and his Spanish counterpart published by a Spanish newspaper yesterday.

The meeting at Bush's Texas ranch was a planning session for a final diplomatic push at the United Nations. The White House was preparing to introduce a tough new Security Council resolution to pressure Hussein, but most council members saw it as a ploy to gain their authorization for war.

Spain's prime minister at the time, Jose Maria Aznar, expressed hope that war might be avoided -- or at least supported by a U.N. majority -- and Bush said that outcome would be "the best solution for us" and "would also save us $50 billion," referring to the initial U.S. estimate of what the Iraq war would cost. But Bush made it clear in the meeting that he expected to "be in Baghdad at the end of March."

"It's like Chinese water torture," he said of the U.N. negotiations. "We've got to put an end to it."

White House spokesman Gordon D. Johndroe declined to comment on the report in El Pais, which also posted what it said was a leaked transcript of the meeting on its Web site. "We're more focused on the task at hand rather than 2003," Johndroe said. A senior administration official knowledgeable about the meeting said he doubted the $1 billion claim -- an offer reportedly transmitted through Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak -- but said he could not be sure. He said the general account of the meeting sounded plausible but did not offer details.

by Fran on Thu Sep 27th, 2007 at 10:53:47 AM EST

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