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COUP IN IRAQ IMMINENT, DEFECTOR SAYS

A coup in Iraq is imminent, a former Iraqi army officer said Monday in his first public comment since defecting to Jordan two weeks ago. And he echoed a claim that Saddam Hussein had planned to invade Kuwait and Saudi Arabia this month.

"A military coup and a popular revolution are coming," Maj. Izzeddine Mohammed Hassan al-Majid said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press."The Iraqis want to get rid of the regime. The whole world knows what is happening in Iraq . . . slaughter, executions, starvation."

Asked when he expected the revolt, Izzeddine, who once headed Saddam's personal guard, said: "This is in the hands of Allah."

Izzeddine arrived in Jordan on Aug. 8 with two of Saddam's sons-in-law, Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel Hassan al-Majid and Col. Saddam Kamel al-Majid, following a reported power struggle in the ruling clan. King Hussein granted them asylum.

Despite their history of close involvement in Saddam's regime, the defectors have sought to portray themselves as the new vanguard of the opposition.

On Sunday, in his first interview since an Aug. 12 news conference, Hussein Kamel told the AP that Iraq was planning to invade Kuwait and Saudi Arabia this month and called off the attack because of the defections and because of a U.S. military buildup in the region.

Izzeddine reiterated the claim Monday, saying: "There was intention to invade Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. We knew about it when we were in Baghdad. But now we do not think that the regime would carry out such action because American troops are in the region."

There was no way to independently confirm the claims. As newly converted Iraqi opposition figures, it would be in the defectors' interests to play up any hints that Iraq was planning such moves.

But al-Majid's credibility is bolstered by his position in the Iraqi regime: He was the brains behind the country's secret weapons program and its industry minister.