updated 2/14/2004 8:45:56 AM ET 2004-02-14T13:45:56

U.S. authorities have given the international Red Cross permission to see Saddam Hussein, but no date has been set, the organization said Saturday.

The ICRC requested permission to visit Saddam soon after he was captured Dec. 13 and the United States declared him a prisoner of war.

“We have had a green light for a visit,” Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a newspaper interview. “However, we don’t yet know when it will take place.”

Kellenberger’s comments were published Saturday in the daily Tribune de Geneve.

ICRC spokesman Florian Westphal confirmed Kellenberger’s comments, but told The Associated Press he could not say when U.S. authorities had given the organization permission to see the toppled Iraqi leader.

“We hope to see him as soon as possible,” Westphal said.

Comment was not immediately available from U.S. officials.

The neutral, Swiss-run organization is entitled to see POWs under the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war, although the accords do not set a timetable for visits.

Continued visits to Iraqi detainees
The ICRC moved many of its international staff out of Iraq following the Oct. 27 bomb attack on its Baghdad headquarters. But it has representatives who continue to visit Iraqi detainees.

The U.S.-led coalition says it has captured 44 of the 55 most-wanted members of the ousted regime and ICRC officials told The AP the organization has visited most if not all of the high-ranking detainees.

The ICRC traditionally works behind the scenes and refuses to comment on specific cases. Kellenberger said the same rules would apply after it sees Saddam.

“Why make an exception for him? He’s a prisoner of war,” he was quoted as saying. “We don’t talk publicly about conditions of detention. But we discuss them in a very clear manner with the authorities concerned.”

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