"It's being covered and it will take some work to uncover," said Major Josslyn Aberle. The decision brought to an end weeks of speculation over the fate of the so-called "spider hole" in the village of al-Dawr near Tikrit.

 

It was initially thought the army would destroy the tiny hole where US troops said they arrested Saddam last December, but Aberle said a plan by a team of engineers to cover it with concrete had been approved on Monday.

 

US Concerns

 

The US occupation authorities in Iraq had expressed concern the cottage in which Saddam spent his last days before being captured might become a tourist attraction if left unharmed.

 

Aberle did not say when the two metre deep and one and a half metre wide hole, which has been kept under heavy guard, would be fully sealed off.

 

Major Josslyn Aberle told Aljazeera.net it was basically an operational decision.

 

"While it was open there had been a tremendous interest by the local population and media. There have been foreign visitors" she said, "it takes a lot of resources from our side to facilitate constant visits out to the site."

 

The decision is valid as long as the US army is operational in Iraq. "There will be no future plans to reopen the site, but it will not be damaged in any way", she added "in the future if the governing authority (in Iraq) decides to reopen it that will be possible."

 

Aljazeera.net contacted one of Saddam Hussein's family members, he spoke on condition of anonymity.

 

"I think they are afraid that the influx of visitors to the place, will prove that the president enjoys many supporters who still adore him" he said "they (the US occupation) are afraid that people will ask them if this really is the hated monster they were talking about!"