- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2003

PARIS — A senior Iraqi Governing Council member, Jalal Talabani, yesterday urged fellow Iraqis to reject President Bush’s suggestion that Saddam Hussein should face the death penalty for his crimes.

“I want Saddam put in jail for life,” Mr. Talabani said in an interview. “I want him to suffer daily as he realizes how his people hate him. Let him see how we build a new Iraq free from his evil grip.”

The Iraqi Kurdish leader, who called Saddam’s capture “the beginning of the end of terrorism inside Iraq,” has been a leading opponent of Saddam and has jointly run a U.S.-protected ministate in northern Iraq since 1991.

His peshmerga guerrilla army also helped coalition special forces rout Saddam’s army in the north during the war last spring.

This week, Mr. Talabani is on a swing through Europe, along with three other IGC members, trying to drum up financial support for Iraq’s reconstruction. The four were in Paris for talks with President Jacques Chirac.

“Saddam must be tried — but there’s no hurry,” Mr. Talabani said in the interview. “And once he’s convicted, let’s not make the mistake of giving him any dignity. He must not have a villa or a castle to spend his life in.

“Let him be treated exactly like any other Iraqi prisoner — confined in a small cell.”

Mr. Bush said on Tuesday that Saddam deserves the “ultimate penalty” for his crimes against the Iraqi people, but that it was up to the Iraqis to make that decision.

Mr. Talabani, who has just completed a monthlong term as head of the Iraqi Governing Council, also rejected suggestions from some IGC members that the trial be held within the next few weeks. “We’ll get far better results if we interrogate him slowly over several months,” he said.

In particular, he said, it was important to learn from Saddam where he has hidden the vast sums that he skimmed from Iraq’s oil revenues over the years and what foreign nations and companies helped him to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Talabani was clearly pleased with Saddam’s meek surrender and his disheveled appearance immediately after his capture, saying the pictures would destroy Saddam’s mystique.

“This will damage him very badly in the eyes of his people,” he said.

Mr. Talabani said he believed Saddam had been sending instructions to his loyalists from his hide-out near Tikrit, relying on messengers for fear that electronic communications would be intercepted.

Found at his hide-out were a taxi and several small boats that might have been used for that purpose.

“I’m convinced Saddam was the manager and coordinator of it all,” Mr. Talabani said.

But Mouwafak al-Rubaie, another IGC member who met Saddam shortly after he was caught, said Saddam was in no fit state mentally to run anything, let alone an uprising.

Insurgent groups did send Saddam reports of their activities — but only to appease him and perhaps ensure he kept sending them money, Mr. al-Rubaie said at a Baghdad news conference yesterday.


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