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Saddam's Prostate Woes

Seven months after being taken prisoner, former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein suffers from a chronic prostate infection but has rebuffed suggestions that a biopsy be performed to rule out cancer, Iraq's human rights minister said Thursday.

Tests show that, despite the prostate problem, the 67-year-old deposed dictator is otherwise in good health and has even shed some extra weight while in U.S. detention, Human Rights Minister Bakhtiar Amin told Al-Jazeera television.

He said X-ray and blood tests came back negative for cancer, but officials wanted to take a biopsy to be safe.

Chronic prostate infections occur in about 35 percent of all men over 50, but are not linked to cancer. Routine screening for prostate cancer, especially among older men, is becoming more common.

Saddam has been held by U.S. officials at an undisclosed location in Iraq since his capture by U.S. forces last December near Tikrit. He had been on the run since his regime collapsed in April in the face of a U.S.-led invasion.

There have been several media reports saying his health was deteriorating, something the U.S. military denied Thursday.

"Saddam did not have a stroke, and he is not dead," 1st Sgt. Steve Valley told The Associated Press. He did not provide further information.

A Jordanian-based spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, the only neutral entity with access to Saddam, said Thursday the organization had no information about a downturn in Saddam's health.

"Saddam's sickness was rumors spread by the media," Mu'in Kassis told The Associated Press. The ICRC said it has visited him at least twice to check on his condition and carry messages to his family.

According to Amin, Saddam has lost weight after following a diet. He spends his time reading the Quran, writing poetry and tending to a garden, Amin said.

Mohammed al-Rashdan, a member of Saddam's defense team, said the lawyers have received unconfirmed information that Saddam suffered a stroke. He urged the Iraqi government to allow them, his family or a neutral party to send a doctor to Iraq to examine Saddam.

Officials at the Iraqi prime minister's office said they had no information on the ousted leader's condition.

Caused by a variety of bacteria, prostate infections develop gradually and can remain undetected for a long time because symptoms are typically subtle and sometimes there are none at all.

The infections are not easy to cure because antibiotics do not accumulate in high concentrations in the prostate. Treatment usually involves several months of strong antibiotics.

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