Stop being Saddam, Aziz tells son
By Adel Darwish in Cairo
(Filed: 18/12/2003)

One of Saddam Hussein's most obsequious henchmen, who named his son after the Iraqi tyrant, has now urged him to change his name by deed poll.

Tariq Aziz, the former Iraqi deputy prime minister, asked his youngest son to change his name from Saddam to Zuheir in letters passed on by his American jailers.

Tariq Aziz is in contact with his children via the Red Cross

Aziz, who has been held since he surrendered in April, is in contact with his children via the Red Cross, his eldest son Zeiyad Aziz told the London-based daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat.

He said his father made the appeal last summer to Saddam Aziz, 20, a student at Amman University. The suggested name Zuheir is Arabic for jolly. Some time after the original appeal, in a hand-written letter dated Oct 13, Aziz referred to his youngest son for the first time as Zuheir.

The name-changing habit is familiar to the Aziz household. As a young man Tariq changed his name from the too-obviously Christian Michael Yuhanna.

Wrongly identified by some as the voice of moderation in Saddam's Iraq, Aziz was a hardliner who warned the leader that the Americans would object to the invasion of Kuwait and that he should therefore invade Saudi Arabia too.

In the seven letters published in Al-Sharq al-Awsat, 68-year-old Aziz asked for cigarettes, magazines, and new clothes because he had shrunk two sizes since he was captured. He was once praised by Saddam for controlling his weight, weeks after the dictator ordered Revolutionary Command Council members to go on a diet and exercise because they looked like "fat beasts".

Zeiyad Aziz told Al-Sharq al-Awsat that his father had not been the informer who provided the Americans with information to aim their missiles at Saddam when the war began in March.

He said Tariq Aziz had hired an Iraqi lawyer, Shawkat Chebieb, and a French one, Jacques Bergese, to lead his father's defence when he is put on trial. Tariq Aziz was not guilty of mass murder or genocide, his son argued, because he was just "an official", while Saddam Hussein "formed, ordered and executed the policy of the regime".