Report: Saddam was willing to leave

Sept. 27, 2007 at 10:23 PM

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- The Spanish prime minister reportedly told President George W. Bush before the 2003 Iraq invasion that Saddam Hussein would be willing to go into exile.

Hussein wanted to leave Iraq with at least $1 billion and information on weapons of mass destruction, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported. Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar described the conditions during a visit to Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, in February 2003.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe would not comment on the newspaper report, or on the transcript posted on the El Pais Web site, The Washington Post reported.

“We’re more focused on the task at hand than 2003,” Johndroe said.

The transcript has Bush telling Aznar that allowing Hussein to leave voluntarily would save the United States at least $50 billion, an estimate of the cost of the invasion and occupation that has proved to be wildly optimistic.

The meeting was part of the preparation for a final U.N. resolution on Iraq, a process Bush compared to “Chinese water torture.”

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