- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2003

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s U.S.-backed Governing Council said yesterday that captured ex-dictator Saddam Hussein was being held in the Baghdad area and would face a public trial in Iraq.

“Saddam Hussein is present in an area of greater Baghdad,” council member Mowaffaq al-Rubaie told reporters.

“He was not moved to Qatar. This report was denied by [U.S. administrator L. Paul] Bremer and the coalition authority. … He will be tried in Iraq in public by an Iraqi court.”

Council member Adnan Pachachi confirmed that Mr. Bremer had said Saddam was still in the country.

U.S. officials have said Saddam, captured by American forces near Tikrit on Saturday, was at an “undisclosed location” and that his fate would be decided by the Iraqi people.

Violence and instability continued yesterday in the wake of his capture, and U.S. forces killed three attackers and detained 11 suspected guerrillas in a major crackdown.

Also, 10 persons were killed in a fuel-tanker explosion in Baghdad that triggered anxiety until the U.S. military said the blast was an accident.

U.S. forces said the three attackers who were killed tried to mount a drive-by shooting in the northern city of Mosul. A fourth attacker was wounded.

There also were violent protests in parts of the Sunni Muslim “triangle” in central Iraq, where Saddam had his power base.

Iraqi officials issued a statement saying the northern oil-export pipeline could not reopen due to the threat of sabotage. Adel Kazzaz, head of the North Oil Co., said the pipeline to Turkey’s Mediterranean coast had been attacked during the weekend.

“Security measures remain insufficient to start the pipeline,” Mr. Kazzaz said in remarks that played a part in U.S. oil prices rising to their highest level since the Iraq war began.

The American military said it had stepped up an offensive to stamp out attacks on U.S.-led occupying forces and Iraqis cooperating with the United States. The attacks are blamed on supporters of Saddam and foreign Islamic militants.

Nearly 200 U.S. soldiers have been killed in attacks since President Bush declared major combat over on May 1.

U.S. forces said they arrested eight more persons in Samarra, some 60 miles north of Baghdad, as part of operations in the area that netted 73 suspects Tuesday.

They said they also detained three suspected insurgents in Baquba, some 40 miles north of the capital. One was suspected of organizing attacks in the area.

Mr. Bush said in an ABC News interview Tuesday that Saddam deserved the death penalty for his rule and that Iraqis should conduct the trial.

Some Baghdad residents suggested harsher punishment.

“Death would not be enough. We should put Saddam in a cage on a main street, and everyone should have two or three hours to do what they want to him,” said Ahmed Hissein, who lost an eye and an ear under torture during Saddam’s rule.

Mr. Bush’s remarks put Washington’s European allies in an uncomfortable position, as they staunchly oppose capital punishment.

“I don’t believe in the death penalty … but I respect the views of others,” British Home Secretary David Blunkett told BBC Radio.

Countries around the Middle East have lined up to sue Saddam for crimes they say he committed while in power.

Kuwait, invaded by Iraq in 1990, became the latest of several countries, including Iran and Israel, to say it was preparing a file on crimes and wanted to take part in any trial.

Italy said it had agreed with the United States on the need for a “substantial reduction” of Iraq’s estimated total debt of $120 billion and wanted a wide range of countries to be involved.

James A. Baker III, U.S. special envoy, met Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a strong supporter of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam in April, in the latest stage of the U.S. administration’s drive for support in reducing the debt.

Mr. Baker already has met with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, opponents of the war, who said they were prepared to offer substantial debt relief through the Paris Club, a group of leading creditor nations.

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