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Daughter: Saddam 'had a big heart'

Two of his children describe regime's end

By Jane Arraf
CNN Baghdad Bureau Chief

Raghad Hussein, left, and her sister Rana discuss their father in an interview with CNN.

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CNN's Jane Arraf talks with Saddam Hussein's oldest daughters, who have found refuge in Jordan. (Part 1)
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CNN's Jane Arraf continues her talks with Saddam Hussein's daughters. (Part 2)
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AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) -- With tears in their eyes, Saddam Hussein's two oldest daughters said Friday that they still love their father but wouldn't talk about his role in the deaths of their husbands in 1996.

Speaking from exile in Amman, 35-year-old Raghad Hussein and 33-year-old Rana Hussein also told CNN that they don't know where the former president has been hiding since the U.S.-led war that ousted his regime from power. They last spoke to Saddam seven days before the war, which started March 19.

"He was a very good father, loving, had a big heart, loved his daughters, sons, grandchildren," Raghad said. "He was the one we always go to."

Rana, who spoke in Arabic, also talked of her father.

"I pray to God that he will be fine and safe," she said.

Recently, the sisters and their nine children fled to Amman, where they were welcomed as guests of King Abdullah II. In 1995, the sisters and their husbands -- who were brothers -- were welcomed by Abdullah's father, King Hussein.

Six months after they defected, they were lured back to Iraq by when Saddam promised forgiveness. Once they arrived, the men were killed in a shootout in a house near Baghdad. The shootout was believed to have been organized by Rana and Raghad's brothers, Uday and Qusay, at their father's request.

Uday and Qusay were killed in a shootout with U.S. troops this month at a house in Mosul.

The sisters said they chose Jordan because of the previous trip there.

Raghad said the decision to leave other family members and friends in Iraq was "horrible."

"Everybody was hugging each other," she said.

A younger sister, Hala, remains in Iraq. Saddam's three daughters and two sons are those of his first wife, Sajida Khairallah Telfah.

The sisters declined to describe any angry feelings they might have against their father for leaving them widows, noting his current situation, and also refused to talk about their brothers' deaths.

"Our wounds are deep," Rana said when the two were asked about Saddam's role in the deaths of their husbands.

The sisters said they hope to see their father again, even as U.S. troops hunt for him.

"I hope we can start a new life with our kids and each other," Raghad said. "Now I can feel I'm home."

The women, both dressed in black dresses and white veils, are staying at an undisclosed location in Amman and said they don't expect to return to Iraq for a long time. They said they hope to live in Jordan the rest of their lives.

Earlier Friday, Raghad said her father's regime collapsed because people close to him betrayed him, and she expressed negative feelings for Saddam.

"Unfortunately, people who my father trusted absolutely have failed him, have betrayed him," she told the Arabic-language network Al Arabiya. Without naming names, she said her father also felt he had been sold out.

"Even if I don't like him, in human terms, we should not betray a person. It is not in the Arab honor," she said.

"They have betrayed their country, they have betrayed Saddam Hussein, my father," she said. "They are men and they should not have given up so easily."

Fall of Baghdad 'a great shock'

She said the rapid fall of Baghdad -- in about two days -- was "a great shock."

The U.S.-led attack on two fronts began March 19, and President Bush declared major combat over May 1.

Raghad said once she realized the Iraqi army's defeat, "I had to go to my sister to tell her that the situation has now ended completely, but she did not believe that all was lost."

Her father sent a car with a security brigade to move his daughters and their children.

"We left Baghdad. We met our mother a few hours later. They placed us in a house in the extreme suburbs of Baghdad. Then, the situation was out of control," she said, adding that she was armed with a rifle.

"Rockets were falling all over the place, sometimes about 50 meters from where we were. Because of the intensity of the bombing, the house was shaking," Raghad said.

"I told my mother also that everything is lost. We are all women together, and we have to decide what to do next," she said. Her mother advised the group to split up.

"From that moment on, I did not see my mother."

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