Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein ordered the execution of one of his senior officers for apparently disclosing Saddam's plan to escape in case his Baathist regime collapses, a published report said Saturday.

The London-based Saudi Arabian newspaper Asharq al Awsat said that in case of defeat in war or if his regime fell to opposition Muslim and Kurdish extremists, Saddam's plan involved escape to either Yemen or Libya.The Saudi daily did not say to whom the Iraqi officer had disclosed the plan, but it quoted French reports as saying Saddam's escape route was similar to the contingency plan he sanctioned in case of defeat during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

The daily also said Saddam sacked his former chief of staff after the military commander said he was not convinced the Iraqi armed forces could withstand an assault from the U.S.-led multinational force in the gulf.