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Iraq: Blair Confirms That Saddam Hussein Captured

Prague, 14 December 2003 (RFE/RL) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair has confirmed the arrest of toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Blair's spokesman said the British prime minister welcomed the capture of Hussein. He said the arrest "removes the shadow" of Hussein's possible return from Iraq.

Earlier today the U.S. Defence Department said it could not confirm the arrest reports.

Iran's official news agency IRNA quoted Jalal Talabani, the head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, as saying that Hussein has been captured in his northern Iraqi hometown of Tikrit. The IRNA report was from Qasr-e Shirin in Iraq.

Another representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Nazem Dabag, told Reuters news agency that he can confirm that Hussein was captured.

None of the two Kurds offered any proof and there is no confirmation for any of the reports.

In Baghdad, a spokeswoman for the U.S.-led occupation forces told reporters that a "very important" announcement will be made at a news conference scheduled for 1 p.m. Prague time (CET). The spokeswoman requested anonymity.

In other news, Iraqi police say the car bomb which exploded this morning at a police station in a town west of Baghdad killed at least 17 people and wounded at least 30 more. Officials say that many of the victims are police officers.

The attack in Khaldiyah, about 80 kilometers west of Baghdad, occurred near the main police station.

A U.S. officer said that no U.S. soldiers were in the area when the bomb exploded. U.S. troops called to the scene immediately blocked off the area.

It is not clear whether the attack was a suicide bombing.

Khaldiyah is located in the so-called Sunni Triangle west and north of the capital, where attacks against occupation troops and their Iraqi allies have been fiercest.