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Iraqi’s call for quick trial for Saddam

Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Their exuberance over his capture still fresh, Iraqi leaders said Monday they want to send Saddam Hussein to a quick trial with an eye toward executing him by summer. But U.S. officials signaled the Iraqis may have to wait.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the world body would not support bringing Saddam before a tribunal that might sentence him to death, and human rights groups were appalled at the rush to a trial they said was crucial to starting a healing process in this war-shattered land.

Members of the U.S.-appointed Iraq Governing Council said Monday the trial would be televised in the interest of exposing Saddam’s atrocities and beginning a process of national healing. But some couldn’t hold back from declaring the verdict a done deal.

“This man has killed hundreds of thousands of people. If he has to be killed once, I think he has to be resurrected hundreds of times and killed again,” said council member Mouwafak al-Rabii, a human rights activist who was imprisoned under Saddam.

Al-Rabii and other council members met with what they described as an unrepentant Saddam on Sunday, hours after his capture by U.S. troops. They said proceedings against the deposed dictator would begin soon in an Iraqi special tribunal written into law last week.

“Very soon. In the next few weeks,” al-Rabii said. “We passed the law. We have almost agreed on most of the judges and prosecutors. We’re almost there. I can tell you, he’s going to be the first.”

Council member Adnan Pachachi said he expected the trial would begin “sometime in March.” A third council member, Kurdish judge Dara Noor al-Din, offered a more conservative estimate: “Maybe four to six months.”

But U.S. officials were just beginning to interrogate their captive on a laundry-list of subjects, including the insurgency that has killed hundreds of U.S. troops and his alleged weapons of mass destruction, the main rationale for the U.S.-led war. Iran, too, said it was preparing charges and expected Saddam to be tried before a “competent international court.”

President Bush said in Washington that details still needed to be worked out before Saddam can be handed over to the Iraqis. He offered few specifics of how Saddam would be tried – or when.

“We will work with Iraqis to develop a way to try him that will withstand international scrutiny,” he said.

But his language suggested he was more interested in the trial’s scope than in its speed.

“All the atrocities need to come out and justice needs to be delivered,” he said.

Appearing to contradict earlier U.S. statements that officials would leave it to Iraqis to work out the details of their special tribunal, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher indicated the U.S. government now planned to play a major role in crafting the court.

Boucher said the State Department would send Pierre-Richard Prosper, its ambassador at large for war crime issues, to Baghdad early next year to work on setting up a court

He stressed provisions in the recently passed law to use international advisers to various court officials. “Obviously,” he said, “we will be consulting with them closely as they make the decisions as we can proceed to some sort of justice for Saddam Hussein.”