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Paste Colgate, soap Lux and bathrooms 64

Baghdad, April 11: For the record, Saddam Hussein seems to prefer Italian suits, double-breasted, by Canali and Luca’s. He favours silk ties in solids or subtle patterns. He brushes with Colgate.

The dictator’s clothes were hanging on Thursday in the wardrobe of a luxurious upstairs bedroom in one of the dozens of compounds within a palace complex that stretches for two miles along the west bank of the Tigris here. On a coffee table lay a wedding album containing photos of Saddam cutting a wedding cake, and on a bureau were snapshots of his sons, Uday and Qusai, as young boys.

Lt. Col. Philip deCamp, commander of a tank battalion that pounded its way onto the palace grounds on Monday, rifled through the photos. He let out a soft whistle, amazed to be standing in the room where Saddam apparently had slept, perhaps very recently.

“Hey,” deCamp said, pointing to three fully packed suitcases stacked in an anteroom. “It looks like he left in a pretty big hurry.”

Thursday was a day of revelations for the armoured crews and commanders camped at the palace. They discovered a pen of emaciated lions, cheetahs and bears on the palace grounds.

Scouts from the US Army’s 3rd Infantry Division found a live sheep and fed it to a cheetah, which was joined in the feast by three lions. Across the pen, a thin brown bear cub bounded through the grass, dragging the entrails of a sheep provided earlier by the same scouts. The soldiers laughed in approval.

The palace was so large deCamp had his men count the rooms and write the numbers on a index card: 142 offices, 64 bathrooms, 19 meeting rooms, 22 kitchens, countless bedrooms, one movie theatre, five “huge ballrooms” and one “football-field sized monster ballroom”.

In Saddam’s bedroom, deCamp thumbed through a Newsweek magazine on a nightstand. The cover story was “Inside America’s new way of war”, an examination of high-tech US weaponry. “Guess he was trying to get ready for us,” said deCamp.

In adjoining rooms were more family snapshots — many of a dark-haired woman, at various ages, perhaps one of Saddam’s wives or daughters.

In a closet were black and navy blue suits, tailored for a tall, barrel-chested man. Many were still inside garment bags, tailors’ tags on their sleeves. Dress shirts with French cuffs were hung neatly in long rows.

In a bathroom with brass fittings lay a toothbrush and toothpaste, a crimson bathrobe, a razor and a bar of Lux soap. Next door, in a study, were shelves of Arabic language books, one containing a photo of Josef Stalin, reported to be Saddam’s role model. US intelligence officers concluded that Saddam had stayed in the compound recently.

DeCamp moved on to another ornate compound where, the night before, his battalion had discovered a hoard of luxury items. He dragged open a door. Inside were vast supplies of TV sets, Moet champagne, Russian vodka, imported American cigarettes, 150 Persian carpets, Parker pen sets, French wines and expensive Lladro figurines. He offered no explanation for the cache of Unicef children’s clothes and toys.

Earlier, deCamp discovered that some of his soldiers had broken into the compound and looted liquor and cigarettes. He ordered his sergeant major to give the men a one-hour deadline: If they confessed and returned the goods, they would not be punished. “We intend to return this whole place over to the Iraqi people,” he said.

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