Bush says Hussein will get �fair, public� trial

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Ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein after his capture, in a video presented 14 Dec. 2003 by U.S. authorities. AFP PHOTO

U.S. President George Bush pledged Monday that the United States would play a major role in putting ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein on trial but that Iraqis would decide whether he will face execution.

�We will work with the Iraqis to develop a way to try him that will stand international scrutiny,� Bush told a news conference in Washington. �The Iraqis need to be very much involved.� He declined to say whether the ousted Iraqi leader should eventually face the death penalty, which is opposed by U.S. coalition partner Britain.

�I�ve got my own personal views. This is a brutal dictator. He�s a person who killed a lot of people. But my personal views are not important in this matter. ... It�s going to be up to the Iraqis to make those decisions,� Bush said. Bush is a former governor of Texas, the U.S. state with the most executions, 312, since 1976.

�The Iraqis need to be involved,� Bush said. �There needs to be a public trial, and I�m confident it will be done in a fair way.�

Britain has said it would not take part in any trial of Saddam that could lead to his execution. Iran and some human rights activists have said Saddam should be tried by an international court rather than by Iraqis under a U.S.-led occupation. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has also opposed the death penalty in the case.

Hussein has reportedly provided no direct intelligence to interrogators since his capture late Saturday by U.S. forces. But military officials say two key figures have been arrested on the basis of information �gleaned� from Saddam Hussein�s capture.

In Baghdad, U.S. General Mark Hertling said the U.S. military �has already been able to capture a couple of individuals.� He also said Hussein had apparently played a role in leading the anti-U.S. attacks.

In London, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he regarded the possibility of Hussein yielding an intelligence cache as highly unlikely. �Frankly, I�m not holding my breath for any confessional statement from Saddam Hussein,� Straw said. �I think his history of mendacity is so intense and so long-lasting that he would not understand the truth if he fell over it,� Straw told a news conference.

Some 600 American soldiers captured Hussein late Saturday, ending a massive eight-month manhunt and raising hope that a deadly Iraqi insurgency against occupying U.S.-led forces might be nearing an end.

On Monday that hope appeared premature, as a series of car bombings at police stations around the Iraqi capital left eight police officers dead and at least 17 wounded, police officials said.

Both Britain and the United States have warned that terror attacks could continue as Hussein�s interrogation got under way.

Hussein could eventually face a war crimes trial in Iraq under a new Iraqi tribunal. For now, Washington has made clear that he faces intensive interrogation-above all to find out what he knows about an ongoing insurgency against the U.S.-led occupation and about any weapons of mass destruction his regime developed or possessed.

The military operation that led to Hussein�s capture, �Operation Red Dawn,� came after a member of a family close to the former Iraqi leader provided critical intelligence, U.S. officials said. The tip-off came from a person arrested in Baghdad on Friday and brought to Tikrit Saturday for an interrogation that indicated Hussein was nearby, according to Col. James Hickey, who led the raid.

Soldiers were seconds away from throwing a hand grenade into the hole when Hussein surrendered, Hickey said.

Hussein, 66, was the number-one most wanted man on the Americans� list of sought-after former Iraqi officials. Photos of Hussein just after his capture showed a bewildered- and bedraggled-looking man almost unrecognizable from his immaculate former self.

Baghdad fell to invading American forces in April and Hussein had been missing and the subject of a massive manhunt since then.

Wan Ming, a professor at George Mason University, Virginia, said Saddam�s capture would likely dampen but not extinguish the Iraqi insurgency�and probably stiffen Washington�s resolve to maintain a strong presence in Iraq.

�Had Saddam not been captured, many people would still hesitate to cooperate with the United States,� Wan said in an interview, adding that this latest development would �help firm up the Bush administration�s determination to carry on the war operations in Iraq.�


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