GENEVA (AP) – Saddam Hussein wrote a new message to his family and spoke at length last week with a visiting delegation from the international Red Cross, an organization spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The team, which included a doctor, met with the former Iraqi president Friday during a routine visit to about 100 “high-value detainees” at a prison in Iraq, said Nada Doumani, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

She declined to comment on Saddam’s health or reports he has a chronic prostate infection or has suffered a stroke.

“It’s an issue of medical ethics,” she said from Amman, Jordan. “We don’t comment on the health condition of anybody.”

But she said the team “stayed for a long time” and “could talk to him at length.” That would indicate he was able to converse for a considerable time, unlikely for someone who has suffered a stroke.

The ICRC delivered three letters to Saddam’s family this week after they were cleared by a censor, Doumani said.

“He wrote a message during the (latest) visit, but of course this has to go also through censorship,” Doumani said.

Doumani declined to disclose details of the latest message or say which family member it was addressed to.

Last month’s visit to Saddam was the ICRC’s fourth since he was arrested by U.S. forces in December. That puts him on par with other coalition detainees, who receive visits every six to eight weeks, Doumani said.

Saddam previously was visited in mid-June.

“We don’t want to make it an exceptional measure for him,” Doumani said, noting that the team saw other detainees when it visited the prison from Thursday to Sunday.

“It’s not any kind of privileged treatment,” Doumani said. “It’s just the treatment that’s given.”

Doumani refused to disclose where Saddam was being held, but Iraqi Human Rights Minister Bakhtiar Amin said Monday the former president is being held at Camp Cropper at Baghdad International Airport. Amin said Saddam was in good health, and prison doctors were checking him twice a day.

Doumani stressed that even though the ICRC delegation included a doctor, it was the responsibility of the detaining authority – in this case the United States – to provide medical care to Saddam and other detainees.

“The appropriate medical care and followup is to be provided by the detaining authority,” Doumani said.

ICRC delegates also spent a week last month visiting detainees at Camp Bucca near Umm Qasr in southern Iraq, where 2,500 Iraqis are being held. Soon they will return to Abu Ghraib, the largest prison, for the next regular visit.

AP-ES-08-04-04 1518EDT



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