U.S. Preparing for Saddam's Execution

The Associated Press
Thursday, December 28, 2006; 10:56 PM

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- As Saddam Hussein's lawyer made a last-ditch effort to impede his execution Thursday, the White House was preparing for the ousted dictator to be hanged as early as this weekend, a senior administration official said. The timetable was based on information that U.S. officials in Baghdad received from the Iraqi government. But, there were differing accounts.

Iraq's deputy justice minister, Bosho Ibrahim, said Saddam shouldn't be hanged for another few weeks. "The law does not say within 30 days, it says after the lapse of 30 days," Ibrahim said.

He did not explain the discrepancy between his interpretation and the court's, nor could he give a specific execution date.

With at least 72 more Iraqis killed in sectarian violence, U.S. officials and Iraqis expressed concern about the potential for even worse bloodshed following Saddam's execution. His lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, said transferring Saddam to Iraqi authorities could be the trigger.

"If the American administration insists in handing the president to the Iraqis, it would commit a great strategic mistake which would lead to the escalation of the violence in Iraq and the eruption of a destructive civil war," al-Dulaimi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Iraq's highest court on Tuesday rejected Saddam's appeal against his conviction and death sentence for the killing of 148 Shiites in the northern city of Dujail in 1982. The court said the former president should be hanged within 30 days.

Al-Dulaimi, Saddam's lawyer, said the ousted leader should enjoy protection from his enemies as a "prisoner of war" and remain in U.S. custody.

"According to the international conventions, it is forbidden to hand a prisoner of war to his adversary," al-Dulaimi said.

"I urge all the international and legal organizations, the United Nations secretary-general, the Arab League and all the leaders of the world to rapidly prevent the American administration from handing the president to the Iraqi authorities," al-Dulaimi said.

An official close to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said Saddam would remain in a U.S. military prison until he is delivered to Iraqi authorities on the day of his execution. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Iraqi government offices shut down ahead of an Islamic holiday this weekend, and there was confusion over when Saddam would be executed and whether President Jalal Talabani was required to approve such action.

Raed Juhi, a spokesman for the High Tribunal that convicted Saddam, said that with approval from Talabani, Saddam could be put to death within 30 days. Otherwise, the execution would be held after that period, he said.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Associated Press