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Saddam's Palaces to Be Tourist Sites


- AFP

( Tuesday, November 8, 2005 )

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"This place is the symbol of how one man spent Iraq's wealth," said Major General Joseph Taluto, the outgoing US regional commander.


US commanders last Tuesday moved out of a complex of palaces that once belonged to ousted president Saddam Hussein, a site Iraqi officials hope to turn into a tourist destination.

The complex, which overlooks the Tigris River, was built just outside Saddam's hometown of Tikrit soon after the end of the 1989-1990 First Gulf War. It served as headquarters to the 42nd Infantry Division, responsible for military operations in north-central Iraq.

Their replacement, the 101st Airborne Division, will be staying at a former Iraqi air base a few kilometers (miles) up the road.

Local Iraqi officials will take control of the site at the end of the month.

"This place is the symbol of how one man spent Iraq's wealth," said Major General Joseph Taluto, the outgoing US regional commander. "Now is the time to return it to the people," he added. The closure of the heavily fortified base, the 30th this year in Iraq, is also designed to concentrate US troops and reduce their visibility and exposure to attacks.

US soldiers Tuesday packed their bags, emptied the garbage, rolled up cables and took some final snapshots of the complex, which comprises 136 buildings, including 18 palaces. "We've maintained the buildings," said Taludo, even though "it's not the greatest of constructions."

Taludo himself worked in one of the palaces, but set up his private quarters in an outside trailer.

The palaces, now mostly empty, have grand marble staircases, huge carved wooden doors and vast rooms with ceilings covered in stucco or coloured arabesque designs.

The departing US troops however say the marble is little more than frosting that masks shoddy brickwork and failing plumbing. Tiles regularly fall from ceilings where massive chandeliers hang. Provincial governor Hamed Humud Shikti said plans are afoot to turn the complex into a tourist or leisure park when he officially takes over.

"First we shall open the gates to allow the people to see the palaces," he said. The palaces have always been off limits to the public.

Then "as a temporary measure I shall move my office here, along with those of the police chief," he added.

Sergeant Jason Mastroietro, from Albany, New York, stood outside a palace built for Saddam's mother burning documents in a large metal drum.

Saddam's water palace in Tikrit, built on a man-made lake fed by the Tigris River. The inside of the building is marble with 20- to 30-foot ceilings.
Saddam's water palace in Tikrit, built on a man-made lake fed by the Tigris River. The inside of the building is marble with 20- to 30-foot ceilings.
Click For Photo of Toilet & Bidet in Saddam's Palace
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Related News - Jackie Craven, Architecture

Saddam's Babylonian Palace

When Saddam Hussein rose to power in Iraq, he conceived a grandiose scheme to rebuild the ancient City of Babylon -- Hussein said that Babylon's great palaces and the legendary hanging gardens of Babylon (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world) would rise from dust. Like the powerful King Nebuchadnezzar II who conquered Jerusalem 2,500 years ago, Saddam Hussein would rule over the world's greatest empire. The vaulting ambition of Saddam Hussein found expression in vaulting, and often.......    More 

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