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Tariq Aziz in US Custody - 2003-04-24


Former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz -- the most recognizable Iraqi after Saddam Hussein himself -- is in US custody.

Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke has now confirmed the Iraqi official was taken into custody late Thursday.

Pentagon sources say intermediaries first approached US officials in Baghdad Wednesday to discuss his surrender.

US Central Command, which is in charge of US operations in Iraq, also issued a brief statement saying the deputy prime minister is in custody and that he was number 43 on the US list of 55 most wanted Iraqis.

Tariq Aziz was Saddam Hussien's main foreign policy advisor and the chief conduit between Baghdad and the west.

Mr. Aziz was also the only Christian member of Saddam's most loyal officials and he was believed to have had little power inside the Iraqi government because he is not a Muslim.

Earlier Thursday, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said coalition forces have captured more of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis than has been revealed so far.

He told the Associated Press that officials will identify them as soon as as the identities are confirmed.

On Wednesday, US officials announced the capture of three former Iraqi officials, including the number 10 man on the list, Muzahim Sa'b Hassan al-Tikriti, commander of Iraq's air defenses.

Officials also say they are holding the former Iraqi trade minister and the ex-chief of military intelligence.

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