Saudis Said to Have Aided Iraq's Nuclear Program

A FORMER Saudi Arabian diplomat told Britain's Sunday Times his country helped fund Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's nuclear program as part of a secret 20-year campaign by Riyadh to acquire its own nuclear weapons.

The newspaper carried a lengthy report under yesterday's front-page, banner headline: ``Britain's Gulf war ally helped Saddam build nuclear bomb.''

The paper said Mohammed Khilewi, second in command at the Saudi mission to the United Nations in New York until he defected in May, had shown the newspaper some of the 13,000 official Saudi documents he took with him when he left.

One was a transcript of a secret desert meeting he attended between Saudi and Iraqi military teams in 1989, a year before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

At the meeting, the Saudis pledged funding for Saddam's nuclear program and handed over specialized equipment Iraq could obtain nowhere else, the paper said. In return, the Iraqis were to share the technology they acquired with Riyadh.

A spokesman for the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London said he could not comment and British Foreign Office officials said they were not aware of the report.

Mr. Khilewi, who denounced his government's human-rights record when he defected, is now in hiding outside New York and seeking political asylum in the United States. Venezuelan leader suspends rights

SAYING he was ``working for the people,'' Venezuela's President Rafael Caldera Rodriguez suspended basic constitutional rights in a drastic effort to stem the country's economic decline.

The decree allows his government to seize private property, make arrests without the usual legal safeguards, restrict travel, and set prices for food, medicine, and foreign exchange.

It came a day after Congress had restored some civil liberties suspended by President Caldera on June 27.

Caldera insisted the new measures were needed to support price and foreign-currency exchange controls, stabilize the banking system, and prevent a currency black market.

The decree continues Caldera's return to the authoritarian and populist style of his first term as president from 1969 to 1974.

Caldera took office in February with a recession and inflation crippling this poverty-stricken nation.

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