UAE leader late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan proposed that the Iraqi dictator go into exile at an emergency Arab League Summit held at Sharm Al Shaikh in Egypt in 2003.

Shaikh Zayed's initiative would have given Saddam and his family exile and guarantees against prosecution in return for letting Arab League and UN experts run Iraq until elections could be held in six months, the Dubai-based Al Arabiya news channel reported an anonymous official as saying on Friday.

Observers believe that if the initiative had been implemented, the war in Iraq - which has cost thousands of lives – could have been avoided.

The 22-member Arab League, led by Secretary-General Amr Moussa, refused to consider the initiative while Iraq's former UN ambassador, Mohammed Al Douri, said Saddam wasn't going anywhere.

Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE armed forces Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan told Al Arabiya during a documentary marking the anniversary of his fathers death, "We had got the final agreement from the different parties, the main players in the world and the person concerned - Saddam Hussein - within 24 hours".

"Were the Americans aware? Yes, I'm telling you the Americans were aware of Shaikh Zayed's initiative and they were accepting," the anonymous UAE official told reporters.

The UAE official said that Belarus was another exile option for the Hussain family – however, that country was not keen on hosting Saddam's notorious sons, Uday and Qusay.