Saddam Hussein's Yacht Back In Iraq A 269-foot yacht commissioned by Saddam Hussein in 1981 for about $25 million has finally made its way home after spending decades on loan. As plans for the boat are still hashed out, Iraq's minister of transportation has been spending some long-awaited time on the former Iraqi dictator's boat.
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Saddam Hussein's Yacht Back In Iraq

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Saddam Hussein's Yacht Back In Iraq

Saddam Hussein's Yacht Back In Iraq

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Mary Louise Kelly.

In the early 1980s, Saddam Hussein commissioned a yacht for $25 million. It was built in Denmark. The yacht is 269 feet long with gold-plated bathroom fixtures, a helipad, even its own mini submarine. But the Iraqi dictator never got to use it.

Now, Saddam's boat has finally made its way to Iraq, where NPR's Kelly McEvers took a tour.

KELLY McEVERS: Can we just look around?

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah.

McEVERS: Can we just look?

The yacht is now the property of Iraq's Ministry of Transportation. Minister Amer Abdul Jabar Ismail shows us around.

So the decoration stayed the same. You haven't - no one has changed the decoration.

Mr. AMER ABDUL JABAR ISMAIL (Minister, Iraq's Ministry of Transportation): Yes. No changes.

McEVERS: And this the bedroom?

Mr. ISMAIL: Yes.

McEVERS: That's the canopy bed and blanketry made in England. What about this tie?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ISMAIL: No. No. No.

Unidentified Man #2: It's Saddam.

McEVERS: It's Saddam? No, not by Saddam. Okay.

By the time this yacht was completed in the '80s, Iraq was at war with Iran. So Saddam never had the chance to use it. He apparently loaned the yacht in turn to the royal families of Oman, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

The dressing area, it has a barber chair.

Then in 2008, the yacht went up for sale by a company partly owned by the king of Jordan. The Iraqi government fought the move and last year, won the case in a French appeals court.

This is sort of his desk, the leather inlay.

Unidentified Man #1: Deer, deer leather.

McEVERS: It's from deer.

Unidentified Man#1: Yeah.

McEVERS: It's a deer hide desktop.

The yacht was then sent to Greece for renovations, Ismail says, and then sailed here to the southern port of Basra.

Mr. ISMAIL: Before, this is a special for president. Now, this is for everybody.

McEVERS: Plans for the boat are still unclear. Ismail says he wants it to be a museum. Other officials want to sell it. But people in Basra told us they doubt they'd ever see any of that money, that the new government taking shape in Iraq has the potential to be just as plutocratic as Saddam's. As he plucks some trash that's stuck to the bottom of his shoe and hands it to an aide, Ismail says it's about time he had his turn. Under Saddam, he worked as an engineer on oil tankers. One day, his tanker pulled next to one of Saddam's other yachts.

Mr. ISMAIL: The captain of the Saddam yacht come told me, please, I need some assist. We need to repair. I speak yes, because I can't refuse.

McEVERS: But then one of Saddam's henchmen appeared.

Mr. ISMAIL: Who give you order to come here? Who made you come in?

McEVERS: After that, Ismail was detained and interrogated for an entire day.

Mr. ISMAIL: Who your friends? How about your family? Your father, grandfather? Your mother? Long question.

McEVERS: Ismail eventually was let go with a threat.

Mr. ISMAIL: If I see you again, I kill you.

McEVERS: Now, Ismail says, the tables have turned.

Mr. ISMAIL: But now I stay here...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ISMAIL: ...in Saddam position. You see? Now I receive Saddam's salon, Saddam bedroom.

McEVERS: So that tie we saw in the bathroom, was that yours?

Mr. ISMAIL: Yes.

McEVERS: And you sit in the desk with the deer leather?

Mr. ISMAIL: Everything. I use everything. I read in the Quran. I sleep in the bed. I use bathroom. I use everything here.

McEVERS: Everything that once belonged to a dictator named Saddam.

Kelly McEvers, NPR News.

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