updated 9/6/2004 8:21:22 AM ET 2004-09-06T12:21:22

Medical tests have shown that a man being held in Iraqi custody is not former president Saddam Hussein's deputy, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Interior Ministry spokesman Sabah Kadhim said Monday.

"The required tests to identify him showed he is not Izzal-Douri," Kadhim told The Associated Press. Kadhim said the man being held is related to al-Douri.

Iraqi officials on Sunday said they had nabbed al-Douri during a shootout north of Baghdad, but later in the day the Iraqi defense minister said word of his arrest was "baseless." U.S. military commanders had also been unable to confirm his arrest.

American officials believe that al-Douri -- Saddam's former right-hand man -- is playing an organizing role in the 16-month insurgency that has plagued U.S. forces here.

There have been incorrect reports of al-Douri's arrest in the past as U.S. and Iraqi forces hunt for the man who was once one of Saddam's most senior deputies. Sunday's report centered on a raid near al-Douri's hometown of Adwar, north of Baghdad.

Arrest reported at hospital clinic
Iraq's top information official had told The Associated Press that al-Douri was seized while receiving medical treatment at a clinic near Adwar and that DNA tests were underway to confirm his identity. Al-Douri reportedly suffers from leukemia, and needs blood transfusions.

"We are sure he is Izzat Ibrahim," information official Ibrahim Janabi said. "He was arrested in a clinic in Makhoul near Tikrit and Adwar and 60 percent of the DNA test has finished."

A Defense Ministry spokesman, Saleh Sarhan, also told the U.S.-funded Alhurra television station that al-Douri had been captured.

Later, however, the Iraqi defense minister, Hazem Shaalan, said in an interview with Lebanon's Al Hayat-LBC television that reports that al-Douri was captured were not true.

"They are baseless," he said. "There are search operations by the national guards troops and multinational troops going on during which some terrorist positions were shelled. There were rumors that Izzat al-Douri or someone who resembles him were in that position but we don't have any information on Izzat specifically."

U.S. Maj. Neal O'Brien of the Tikrit-based 1st Infantry Division said he could not confirm the report and U.S.-led forces issued a statement saying he was not in U.S. custody. A senior U.S. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Americans had no information to indicate that al-Douri had been arrested.

Al-Douri accused of role in 16-month insurgency
Al-Douri was once the vice chairman of the Baath Party's Revolutionary Command Council and U.S. military officials believe he played an organizing role in the 16-month-old insurgency.

He is No. 6 on the U.S. military's list of 55 most-wanted figures from Saddam's regime and U.S. forces have offered a $10 million bounty for his arrest. Forty-four of the people on the list already have been killed or captured.

Saddam was arrested on Dec. 13, hiding in a tiny underground bunker near Adwar.

Dawoud, the minister of state, said the trial of Saddam and other indicted officials from his regime would start "within a few weeks ... before the end of this year and before (Iraqi) elections," which are planned for January.

Saddam so far has had seven preliminary charges filed against him, including gassing thousands of Kurds in 1988, the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the suppression of 1991 revolts by Kurds and Shiites, the murders of religious and political leaders and the mass displacement of Kurds in the 1980s.

Eleven others have also been charged, including former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz; Ali Hasan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali;" and former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan.

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