A top aide to Uday Saddam Hussein, elder son of the Iraqi President, has defected to the West and been spirited out of Lebanon, an Iraqi opposition official said Thursday.
Iraqi dissidents reported Wednesday that Adeeb Shaaban, a former aide to Uday, had defected while visiting Lebanon. The reports have been denied by the Iraqi Embassy in Beirut.
"Adeeb Shaaban is now in a safe place outside the Arab world," Mashaan Jebouri, the Syria-based leader of the Homeland Party, an Iraqi opposition group, told The Associated Press.
"The US Embassy (in Beirut) should be asked where it took Shaaban," Jebouri added.
A spokeswoman for the US Embassy in the Lebanese capital said she had heard a rumor about an Iraqi man's defection, but she could not confirm it. "I cannot comment on a rumor," spokeswoman Candace Putnam said Thursday.
Another Iraqi opposition figure, Bayan Jaber of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said in Damascus on Thursday that Shaaban had defected but was still in Beirut.
The press attache at the Iraqi Embassy in Beirut, Nouri al-Tamimi, dismissed the reports of Shaaban's defection as "totally untrue". "These reports are part of a hostile campaign against Iraq," al-Tamimi told the Lebanon News Agency.
Al-Tamimi denied that Shaaban was an aide to Saddam's son, saying he was the head of an Iraqi photography association.
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