- AMMAN, Jordan -- "How's
the coffee?" Raghad Hussein asks, with the charm of an attentive hostess.
In her elegant villa in the Jordanian capital of Amman, Saddam Hussein's
eldest daughter has just served us small cups of sweet, Turkish coffee
and glasses of orange juice on a silver tray.
- A vase of white liles and pink roses adorns the coffee
table. For light reading there is a copy of Hello! magazine and a Danielle
Steele bodice-ripper. Most striking, however, are the countless family
photographs on display in the government guesthouse where Raghad lives
in exile with her five children.
- The house is a shrine to Saddam. Visitors ushered through
the front door by a Filipina maid find themselves staring at a painting
of the deposed dictator. AlthoughRaghad is reticent about her father's
plight, her youngest daughter, 10-year-old Banan, is not.
- "Saddam Hussein is a good man," she said in
confident English, picking up a photograph of her grandfather in one of
the spacious reception rooms. "He is in the American prison, but mom
says that's not right."
- Raghad may be concerned about her father but evidently
she is making the most of her new way of life.
- As Saddam undergoes daily interrogation by his CIA captors
and Iraq is plagued by a bloody insurrection, the mother-of-five has undergone
cosmetic surgery, works out several mornings a week at a smart ladies'
gym and is often seen in Amman's leading jewellery and clothes stores.
- Today, Raghad, 36, sweeps in wearing a beige linen trouser
suit, her dark brown hair carefully highlighted and drawn back in a clasp.
- "I've only just got out of the bath," she said,
needlessly apologising for her appearance.
- Last week, as her father's successor as Iraqi president
was being announced in Baghdad, Raghad had a rather different appointment
on her mind - an afternoon at her favourite hairdressing salon, spending
the equivalent of £100 on highlights, and a cut and blow-dry.
- Although Saddam is known to have secreted millions of
dollars in bank accounts in neighbouring countries, including Jordan, before
the war, the bill for Raghad's extravagant life in Amman is being footed
by her hosts - to the irritation of many Jordanians, and the anger of Iraqi
- Her sister, Rana, and four children are also living in
- The family, however, is still struggling to recover what
it believes is rightfully theirs. Raghad and her mother, Sajida, recently
appointed an international team of more than a dozen lawyers to defend
Saddam when he comes before Iraq's newly-created war crimes tribunals.
- Remarkably, one of their first instructions to the leading
Jordanian lawyer, Mohamed Roshdan, was that he should write to John Ashcroft,
the American attorney-general, requesting the return of jewels from the
former presidential palaces, and even the wads of dollars found with Saddam
at the time of his arrest.
- These were the family's personal wealth, they said, and
not state property.
- Raghad is reluctant to discuss politics as she is wary
of offending her hosts, the Jordanian royal family.
- But she strikes a conciliatory tone when she discovers
that The Sunday Telegraph photographer is American although she declines
to be photographed.
- "I am sorry that Americans are being killed in Iraq,
but they invaded our country and that is unfortunately the result,"
- "But you are an American and I am an Iraqi, and
I believe that if our peoples can sit down and get to know each other,
then things could be worked out."
- There is a greetings card in the room from Jordan's King
Abdullah. "We call upon God to embrace you with love and protection,"
the message reads. In Amman, Raghad said, she and her children are being
well cared for.
- Certainly, there is a relaxed atmosphere in the house,
the familiar hubbub of children.
- "Sorry about the noise," she said. "It's
impossible to control these kids." Her youngest son, 12-year-old Saddam,
peers down from the top of the stairs before laughing and scurrying away.
- Banan, however, comes to join her in the sitting-room,
chatting, playing and burrowing her head in her mother's lap.
- There is no sign that they have suffered from their undoubtedly
traumatic childhoods. Banan, for example, points out photographs of her
Uncle Uday and stands up for her grandfather, even though Saddam ordered
the death of her father, Hussein Kamel, and Uday apparently carried out
- Once a close associate of Saddam, Raghad's husband was
killed on Saddam's orders after he fled to Jordan in 1995, disclosing details
of Iraq's secret weapons programmes before being lured back to Baghdad
in 1996 on false promises of a pardon.
- Rana's husband, Saddam Kamel - Hussein's brother - suffered
the same fate.
- Raghad and Rana were reportedly estranged from Saddam
after the killings - effectively living under house arrest for a time -
but now back their father.
- In their new life in exile, there are few pictures of
Hussein Kamel. Instead of house arrest in Iraq, the family are guarded
by Jordanian paramilitary police officers. Diplomatic protection squad
officers drive Raghad around town on her trips to the shops, gym and beauty
- Raghad's svelte figure is impressive for a woman who
bore her first child when she was 16 and had had four more by the time
she was 26.
- The look is, however, not all down to visits to the gym
- it also owes something to surgery. Her cosmetic surgeon, Ghaith Shubeilat,
is among the best-known in the region and the brother of a pro-Saddam Jordanian
- Mr Shubeilat confirmed that Raghad was his client - and
a friend who attends parties at his house - but declined to give details
of her surgery. "That would breach my relationship with my client,"
- Other Jordanians who visited the Amman Surgical Hospital
last summer, however, were told that Raghad had undergone cosmetic surgery
on her breasts, and possibly also a tummy tuck last August, shortly after
her brothers Uday and Qusay were killed in a shoot-out with US forces in
- At the same time, survivors of the bomb attack on the
United Nations headquarters in Baghdad were being treated in nearby wards.
- It is not the first time that Raghad has taken advantage
of exile in Amman to improve her appearance. During her last stay there,
she also had operations to reduce the width of her nose and reduce the
bags under her eyes.
- Raghad's interest in her looks at a time when her former
country is reeling infuriates former Iraqi exiles in Amman. "The woman
has no shame, none at all," said one. "That's the worst thing
- © Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/06/06/wirq2