BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — The interim prime minister said
yesterday he would not interfere with an Iraqi tribunal’s
right to decide whether Saddam Hussein and his top lieutenants
should be executed on war crimes charges, the Arab language
television station Al-Arabiya reported.

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said he was willing to abide by
whatever the court decides in the trial, which is not expected to
begin for months. Iraq assumed legal custody of Saddam from the
United States last week and reinstated the death penalty, which had
been suspended by U.S. occupation authorities.

“As for the execution, that is for the court to decide
— so long as a decision is reached impartially and
fairly,” he said.

Saddam’s first court appearance Thursday dominated the
media across Iraq. The broadly outlined charges include the
slaughter of Shiites during a 1991 uprising and a chemical weapons
attack against Kurds in the northern city of Halabja.

Thousands of Kurds demonstrated yesterday in Halabja, demanding
that Saddam and one of his key lieutenants — Ali Hassan
al-Majid, also known as “Chemical Ali” — be put
to death for the gas attack that killed 5,000 people on March 16,
1988. Carrying photos of their slain loved ones, the marchers said
they want Saddam to be tried and executed in their town.

“Every family in this city lost no less than five of its
dear sons,” said demonstrator Sabiha Ali, 50.
“Therefore, we want to execute Saddam on the soil of the
land.”

Also yesterday, the spokesman for militant Shiite cleric Muqtada
al-Sadr tempered threats to continue fighting, saying his movement
only planned to wage “peaceful resistance” against the
interim government.

Iraq’s oil exports were cut nearly in half as workers
struggled yesterday to repair a key pipeline shut down after
looters sabotaged the line, according to officials with the South
Oil Co. and traders.

The looters, trying to steal crude oil for sale on the black
market, breached one of the country’s two key southern
pipelines, said an SOC official, speaking on condition of
anonymity.

A land mine detonated yesterday along the main route to the
southern city of Samawah, where Japanese troops are based, police
said. There were no reports of injuries. The route is frequented by
coalition forces.

In southern Iraq, insurgents fired rockets at a government
building early Monday, but instead struck nearby homes, killing one
person and wounding eight, police said. The attack targeted the
province’s main offices near the center of the Basra.

Interior Ministry officials also said two Iranians suspected of
trying to detonate a car bomb were captured but gave no
details.

Iraqi officials have blamed foreign fighters and religious
extremists for a wave of recent vehicle bombings. The attacks have
led to fears that religious fanatics and Saddam loyalists may be
joining forces to fight both the multinational force and the new
Iraqi government.

Iraqi troops thwarted a car bombing outside their regional
headquarters northeast of Baghdad on Sunday, killing an attacker
before he could detonate his vehicle.

Two bystanders also died in the assault in Baqouba, the scene of
fierce fighting last week between American soldiers and insurgents
who tried to seize government buildings and police stations.

Also in Baqouba, gunmen fired at a building belonging to a city
council official in the town of Khalis on Sunday, killing two
people and wounding two, said Salih Mahdi, the spokesman for the
Diyala province.

Iraqi government officials have suggested that tough moves will
soon be taken to combat the violence, but canceled a news
conference yesterday where they had been expected to announce a
limited amnesty for insurgents and martial law in parts of the
country.

The news conference with Justice Minister Malik Dohan al-Hassan
and Human Rights Minister Bakhtiyar Amin was postponed indefinitely
just as it was scheduled to begin.

 

The government had canceled a previous news conference on the
same topic.

Britain and Australia offered support yesterday for the proposed
amnesty offer. Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer agreed the
interim Iraqi government was entitled to make such decisions.

Al-Sadr issued a statement Sunday from his office in the Shiite
holy city of Najaf calling the new interim Iraqi government
“illegitimate” and pledging “to continue
resisting oppression and occupation to our last drop of
blood.”

Al-Sadr’s spokesman in Baghdad, Mahmoud al-Soudani, called
a news conference yesterday to clarify that the statement was not a
call to arms. He said that many of al-Sadr’s supporters in
Baghdad had begun taking up arms again and he needed to correct
their misperceptions.

“We are still committed to the cease-fire,”
al-Soudani said.

Al-Sadr previously had made conciliatory statements to the new
government of Allawi, a fellow Shiite, and members of his movement
had suggested they might transform the al-Mahdi Army into a
political party. Al-Mahdi fighters accepted cease-fires in most
Shiite areas after suffering huge losses at the hands of the
Americans from an uprising in April.

Al-Sadr has made contradictory statements in the past.

In his statement Sunday, the young cleric said, “There is
no truce with the occupier and those who cooperate with
it.”

“We announce that the current government is illegitimate
and illegal,” he said. “It’s generally following
the occupation. We demand complete sovereignty and independence by
holding honest elections.”

Earlier Sunday, Allawi told ABC News that he had met with
al-Sadr representatives “who want to try and
mediate.”

“The position of the government is very clear,”
Allawi said. “There is no room for any militias to operate
inside Iraq. Anything outside law and order is not tolerated,
cannot be tolerated. The rule of law should prevail.”

Al-Sadr’s harsh statement suggested the government may be
taking a hard line, insisting he abolish his militia and submit to
the warrant.

Although Iraq regained sovereignty June 28, about 160,000
foreign troops remain under a U.N. resolution to help the new
government restore security.

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