Iraqi opposition groups in exile in London could not agree on Wednesday on whether to believe unconfirmed reports that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had been taken seriously ill.
The Damascus-based Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq said on Monday it had information that Saddam had suffered a severe stroke during a military parade in Baghdad on New Year's Eve.
Those reports have been dismissed as "stupid" by the Iraqi government and there has been no independent confirmation.
Sharif Ali, official spokesman for the London-based opposition group the Iraqi National Congress, said it was impossible to tell if there was any truth in the rumors.
"Through our sources in Iraq we have no hard evidence that anything has happened, there is nothing concrete we can put our finger on," he told AFP.
"There are many different sources saying that he did collapse, that he was taken to hospital. Through second or third hand sources that is what we are hearing."
But he added: "We can't confirm that...We haven't heard that there is any kind of alert within Baghdad, which would be standard procedure if anything of that nature happened."
However, Mowaffak Al-Rubaie, who described himself as an independent spokesman for the Iraqi opposition in exile, told Sky News that the Iraqi security forces had been put on alert.
He said that according to his sources, members of the ruling Ba'ath party had also been put on standby, and staff at the Iraqi radio and television station had been ordered to stay at their desks because a major announcement was expected.
"If you look at all this together, we believe there is something serious going on," Al-Rubaie said. "We don't know what because of the iron curtain surrounding the country" -- LONDON (AFP)
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