The Iraqi government is considering waiving further proceedings against former president Saddam Hussein if he is convicted at his trial on charges stemming from the massacre of 143 Shiite Muslims in 1982, a senior spokesman said Sunday.
Hussein could face execution in that case. The trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 19.
The former president had been expected to face a dozen or more proceedings for alleged crimes committed by his government. But Laith Kubba, spokesman for interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, said Sunday that if Hussein is convicted in the first case, any sentence is likely to be carried out as swiftly as possible.
"My guess is if the court passes judgment, it should be implemented without further delay," Kubba said. He added that it was not possible to forecast how long the trial would last.
The case concerns the aftermath of an attempt to assassinate Hussein in the northern town of Dujail in 1982. The government retaliated for the plot by killing at least 143 people and razing much of the town, the interim government says.
The Shiite-led interim government is believed to have chosen the case in part because of its narrow focus and the possibility of tracing the killings back to Hussein. Other accusations against him, including state-orchestrated massacres of thousands of Kurds and Shiites, are much broader.
"The charges against Saddam are so many. Regardless of how many years he is going to live, the charges and trials would not end," Kubba told reporters at a news conference.
Kubba said seven members of Hussein's government would face trial with him. They include Barazan Ibrahim, a former intelligence chief and Hussein's half brother; former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan; and Awad Hamed Bandar, a former Baath Party official in Dujail.
Iraq's U.S.-led interim administration suspended capital punishment in 2003. But the country's interim leaders made reinstating it a priority and recently carried out the country's first executions in the post-Hussein era by hanging three men convicted of murder, kidnapping and rape.
Also Sunday, members of the Shiite-dominated interim National Assembly criticized Arab governments for what they said was a lackluster response to a stampede Wednesday in Baghdad that left hundreds of Shiite pilgrims dead.
The pilgrims were headed to a shrine and had crowded a bridge over the Tigris River when panic broke out. The official death toll from the incident stands at 1,005, the Reuters news service reported Sunday.
Shiite lawmakers contrasted the Arab world's response to the stampede with its offers of aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina in the United States.
"Why would Spain and other countries send us their condolences while these so-called Arab countries did not even say a word?" said Jalaladeen Sagheer, a cleric and leading lawmaker. He added that, in any case, words of sympathy from Arab states would be hollow.
Relations between Iraq and the Arab world have been edgy recently, particularly since the 22-member Arab League faulted the interim government for failing to specifically refer to Iraq as part of the Arab world in the country's draft constitution, which was submitted last month.
On Sunday, negotiators continued to work on a compromise over that designation.
Separately, Iraq's interim foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, told the Associated Press that Iraq intended to open its embassy in Kuwait in coming weeks for the first time since Hussein ordered the 1990 Kuwait invasion.
Asked whether Kuwait would reopen its embassy in Baghdad, Zebari said that decision would be "left to the Kuwaiti government itself and its estimation about the situation in Iraq."