Iraq to bring unwanted Saddam yacht home

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The Iraqi government has decided to bring home a yacht once owned by ousted dictator Saddam Hussein after failing to find a buyer for it in Europe because of the world economic crisis, a spokesman said Wednesday.

The Ocean Breeze, which was built in 1981, will be sailed back to Iraq’s southern port of Basra, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement.

Iraq had tried to fetch up to $30 million in France for the 270-foot pleasure boat, which features gold taps in its bathrooms, a mini-operating theater, a helicopter landing pad and a secret escape passageway, according to media reports.

But Dabbagh said the global credit crunch and ensuing economic turmoil had driven away potential buyers and sharply reduced the likely proceeds from the sale of the yacht to below what Iraq considered to be its real value.

Saddam, whose decades-long rule came to an end with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and who was hanged in 2006 for crimes against humanity, lived lavishly.

U.S. missiles and bombs destroyed another luxurious Saddam yacht, the Al Mansur, in southern Iraq in 2003.

Dabbagh said the Iraqi finance ministry had been instructed to pay a sum amounting to two percent of Ocean Breeze’s value to a lawyer handling the legal paperwork.

The ministry would also pay mooring fees and the charges of a Greek company that had been maintaining the yacht in Piraeus harbor since July.

The vessel would return to Iraq when the maintenance contract with the Greek company runs out at the end of January, his statement said.

The yacht was being returned to Iraq to avoid future lawsuits over mooring charges, he said.

Ocean Breeze had been the subject of legal wranglings with Jordan, which had claimed it as its own.

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