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Ex-Iraq Defense Chief Offered Deal

The commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division has promised to treat Saddam Hussein's fugitive defense minister with "utmost dignity and respect" if he surrenders.

Meanwhile, it was reported the United States is holding in Iraq six prisoners who claim to be Americans and two who say they are Britons. It was the first time the U.S. military has acknowledged the detention of Westerners in connection with attacks on American troops in Iraq.

The offer to Sultan Hashim Ahmed, made in a letter dated Aug. 28 by Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, was in response to a request by Ahmed's family and tribal chiefs that Ahmed's name be removed from America's list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis in return for his surrender.

In other recent developments:

  • The United States will likely circulate a revised U.N. resolution on Iraq by the end of the week after studying proposed amendments by France, Russia, Syria, Chile and other Security Council members, diplomats said Monday.
  • Secretary of State Colin Powell visited a mass grave Monday to highlight perhaps the single biggest human-rights abuse of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime — the chemical weapons murder of some 5,000 people in March 1988.
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday exhorted President Bush to fire advisers who helped him set U.S. policy in Iraq, saying miscalculations have cost American lives.
  • Statistics from Baghdad's morgue point to a stunning rise in violence, reports The Los Angeles Times. There are 25 times more gun deaths now than before the end of major combat. Where coroners once probed 20 firearms deaths a month, in August it handled 518. The overall number of suspicious deaths leapt from 250 last year to 872 last month.
  • Three masked gunmen assassinated the police chief of Khaldiya, a town in the dangerous Sunni Triangle, the chief's driver said.
  • CNN war correspondent Christiane Amanpour told CNBC her network "was intimidated" by the Bush administration and Fox News, which "put a climate of fear and self-censorship," according to USA Today.

    "I offer you a simple, yet honorable alternative to a life on the run from coalition forces in order to avoid capture, imprisonment and loss of honor and dignity befitting a general officer," Petraeus said in the letter to Ahmed, which was shown to The Associated Press by an Iraqi mediator.

    "I officially request your surrender to me. In return, I will accept this from you in person. You have my word that you will be treated with the utmost dignity and respect, and that you will not be physically or mentally mistreated while under my custody. As a sign of good faith, I will personally ensure that my staff will attend to any medical conditions you have," the letter said.

    Master Sgt. Kelly Tyler, spokeswoman for the 101st, said she was not aware of the letter, but said the division has written to other wanted Iraqis seeking their surrender. Before the U.S. invasion, there were rumors that Ahmed had fallen out of favor with Saddam and was under house arrest. Spokesmen for Saddam's government denied that.

    Dawood Bagistani, a human rights activist in Mosul, is mediating between the Americans and Ahmed's family. Bagistani, a Kurd, also wrote to President Bush this month, asking him to remove Ahmed from the list.

    "This man has not done any crime," the letter said. He added that his investigation found no complaints against Ahmed by the Iraqi people.

    "If we were not certain of his innocence, we wouldn't have intervened," Bagistani said in an interview. He said Ahmed was liked by all groups — Kurds, Arabs, Christians and Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

    Bagistani said he would go on local TV on Tuesday night to tell Ahmed the Americans had agreed to take his name off the most-wanted list if he surrendered. The offer, Bagistani said, would call for Ahmed to be kept in U.S. custody only long enough for him to be thoroughly questioned. He could then return to normal life without prosecution by the Americans.

    There was no confirmation from U.S. officials.

    Bagistani said Petraeus' letter to Ahmed was in "so many words, an acceptance of his family's condition for his surrender."

    He said his organization and the U.S. Army were still awaiting a response from Ahmed and his family to Petraeus' offer.

    "I think it is going to be OK. His family, his brothers want this to end peacefully. But they are afraid that the Americans may renege on their promise. They think the U.S. is like the previous regime or those of other Middle Eastern countries."

    The Americans have an idea where Ahmed is hiding, Bagistani said, adding that if Ahmed took too long to respond, they might try to take him by force, possibly resulting in his death or injury.

    One of the senior leaders of the al-Tai tribe to which Ahmed belongs said if Ahmed's name was removed from the list, the tribe would invite the Americans to a big party and slaughter 150 sheep in their honor.

    In the letter, Petraeus acknowledged Ahmed's reputation.

    "I understand that you are the most respected senior military leader currently residing in Mosul. Your reputation as a man of honor and integrity is known throughout the country," he said.

    He even struck a note of camaraderie with his fellow army officer.

    "Although we find ourselves on different sides of this war, we do share common traits. As military men, we follow the orders of our superiors. We may not necessarily agree with the politics and bureaucracy, but we understand unity of command and supporting our leaders in a common and just cause," Petraeus said.

    "However, the collapse of your regime necessitates your thoughtful reconsideration of support. I am concerned that your perceived resistance to the Coalition's efforts to bring back this country's honor is detrimental and will result in further and needless loss of lives," he added.

    He warned, however, that the U.S. Army was "resolute" and would "do all that is necessary to ensure that we achieve our objectives."

    Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, said the eight Western prisoners were considered security detainees — those who attacked or helped carry out attacks against coalition troops — and were being interrogated by Military Intelligence.

    Karpinski said they are being held at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, 12 miles west of Baghdad, one of the most potent symbols of Saddam Hussein's regime.

    She would not provide further details.