What to do with Saddam's Palaces

The Telegraph reports that nine palaces inside a lakeside complex featuring moulded ceilings, a Saddam Hussein mural and a former prison cell are among the properties to be vacated by US troops at the end of this year.

The US military has been headquartered in the complex near Baghdad International Airport since it reached Baghdad in 2003.

By the time the dictator was toppled, he had built about 75 palaces and VIP complexes nationwide, including the Victory over Iran palace, commemorating the 1980-1988 war he started that ended in stalemate and half a million dead, and the Victory over America palace commemorating the 1991 Gulf War in which a US-led coalition drove Saddam's invading forces out of Kuwait.

Now the Iraqi government must figure out what to do with all the properties. It plans to turn a palace complex in the southern city of Basra into a museum, while a palace near the ruins of Babylon may become a hotel.

Iraq has formed a committe to decides on the fate of the palaces; its head, Bahaa Mayah, said the Victory complex would make a good presidential complex, being near the airport.

"When a foreign president or prime minister visits Iraq, we close all the streets, and lot of security measures are taken and so it really disturbs the traffic inside Baghdad," he said. "So the best place is near the airport where the president can receive his guests without any security burden."

A prime property at the Victory complex is Al Faw palace (pictured), whose construction became Saddam's personal architectural hobby. He commissioned its construction to commemorate the Iraqi forces' re-taking of the Al-Faw Peninsula during the Iran-Iraq conflict.

(Source: The Telegraph)

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