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U.S. Preparing for Saddam's Execution

But Hiwa Osman, a spokesman for Talabani, has said the execution might not need the president's signature.

International reaction to the denial of Saddam's appeal has been relatively muted.

Cardinal Renato Martino, Pope Benedict XVI's top prelate for justice issues and a former Vatican envoy to the U.N., condemned the death sentence in a newspaper interview published Thursday, saying capital punishment goes against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

After Saddam's death sentence was handed down last month, Louise Arbour, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, urged Iraq to ensure a fair appeals process and to refrain from executing Saddam even if the sentence is upheld.

Some international legal observers and human rights groups have also called Saddam's trial unfair because of alleged interference by the Shiite-dominated government.

But State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said Thursday the Bush administration believes the trial was held in accordance with international and Iraqi laws.

"(The Iraqis) carried out their work in a transparent and open manner and they arrived at a verdict based on the facts in the case," Casey said.

In Dujail, home to the 148 victims of the 1982 killings, townspeople were divided over Saddam's execution.

"America is using him to increase sedition among Iraqis, but we are thinking only of how Iraq can get rid of its problems and achieve security," said Hussein Abases, a Shiite farmer.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman acknowledged there was concern about a possible surge of violence after the execution. "I'm sure the Iraqi government is thinking through that and working with the coalition in terms of the impact that could have," he said in Washington.

At least 30 Iraqis died Thursday in bombings and shootings, including a suicide bombing in a crowd of people waiting to buy kerosene near a stadium in Baghdad that killed 10, according to police. Police also said 42 bodies of tortured men were found dumped in the Iraqi capital Thursday.

The U.S. military announced five more American troop deaths: four soldiers hit by roadside bombs on patrol and a Marine killed in combat in volatile western Iraq. That raises U.S. troop deaths this month to 100, second only to the 105 service members who died in October.

At least 2,988 members of the U.S. military have been killed since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an AP count.

The al-Qaida in Iraq cell leader allegedly responsible for the deaths of two of the servicemen was arrested Tuesday in a raid south of Baghdad, the military said. Al-Qaida in Iraq had claimed it killed the two U.S. soldiers found dead in June _ Pfc. Kristian Menchaca of Houston and Pfc. Thomas Tucker of Madras, Ore. Their bodies were recovered after a search by 8,000 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers, dubbed Operation Fallen Eagle.


Associated Press writers Shafika Mattar in Amman, Jordan, and Christopher Torchia in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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