THE debate over who owns Saddam Hussein's buttock has led to a man being arrested this morning.

The Hereford Times reported today that former SAS soldier Nigel Ely has been asked by the Iraqi Government to return the bronze memento that he helped topple from Saddam's statue to mark Iraq's liberation on 2003.

The 53-year-old soldier, known as Spud, managed to sneak it out of the country by saying that it was vehicle armour and paid £385 excess baggage to get it to the UK.

He then kept it at his Preston-on-Wye home and has been trying to sell the iconic bronze piece to raise thousands of pounds to help injured ex-servicemen in Britain and the USA.

But now the Iraqi Government is claiming that it is part of the “country’s antiquity” and demanding that Nigel returns it or faces possible theft charges.

“It’s absolutely amazing and I feel gobsmacked,” said Nigel.

“I had a message from Scotland Yard, which came from the Iraqi Embassy in London and initiated from Baghdad, saying that I stole the bronze piece and they wanted it back.

“I had to go to Derby to be interviewed and the police wanted to take the bronze, but I told them that I had a potential buyer for it.”

Nigel is the co-founder of Trebletap, a specialist company based in Derby that promotes “war relic art”, and has turned Saddam’s buttock into an art work.

This, he claims, means that he is the legal owner.

“When I got the piece, it was just scrap metal,” said Nigel.

Mr Ely has since told the Hereford Times that director Jim Thorpe was arrested this morning for effectively "hiding Saddam's buttock."

"My argument is that was the Americans who gave it me and was under American control as Iraq didn't have a government."

Derbyshire Constabulary spokesman Jill Warden confirmed that a 66-year-old man was arrested this morning on suspicion of breaching Section 8 of the Iraqi Sanctions Order 2003 - illegally removing Iraqi cultural property - and will be questioned later today.