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Talabani says Saddam confessed to crimes
Updated: 2005-09-07 19:09

Iraq's president said Saddam Hussein has confessed to killings and other "crimes" committed during his regime, including the massacre of thousands of Kurds in the late 1980s. Jalal Talabani said the deposed leader should be executed many times over.

Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein answers questions during an investigative session conducted by the Iraqi Special Tribunal (IST) in Baghdad in this file photo that was handed out on July 28, 2005. Saddam has confessed to carrying out executions and should be hanged '20 times', Iraq's president Jalal Talabani said on September 6, 2005 while confirming that he will not sign a death warrant himself. [Reuters]
In Baghdad, gunmen shot and killed a top Iraqi Defense Ministry official Wednesday as he drove through a dangerous neighborhood in the south of the capital. Separately, insurgents attacked an Interior Ministry commando patrol in the west of the city, killing a colonel and wounding four bodyguards.

In the southern city of Basra, police Lt. Col. Karim al-Zaidi said a roadside bomb Wednesday hit a convoy of "security contractors, killing three of them and wounding one." He said the nationalities of the victims were not known.

On Tuesday evening, Talabani told Iraqi television that an investigating judge "was able to extract confessions from Saddam's mouth" about numerous executions he had allegedly personally ordered during his 24 years in power.

But a legal consultant retained by Saddam's family expressed skepticism over the claim, saying the former strongman had not mentioned any confession when he met his lawyer on Monday.

Saddam's trial is scheduled to open on Oct. 19. He and seven other senior Baath Party officials have been charges for their alleged role in the 1982 massacre of Shiites in Dujail, a town north of Baghdad, following an assassination attempt there against him. The trial is likely to be the first of a series of legal proceedings against Saddam on numerous charges.

In the late-night TV interview, Talabani said Saddam was responsible for many more atrocities than just the killings in Dujail. These included the so-called Anfal campaign in 1987-88, which cost the lives of more than 180,000 Kurds and resulted in the ethnic cleansing of numerous Kurdish communities in the north of Iraq.

"Saddam Hussein is a war criminal and he deserves to be executed 20 times a day for his crimes against humanity," said Talabani, who heads the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party. He added that Saddam had tried to assassinate him at least 20 times.

But Abdel Haq Alani, Saddam's family's legal consultant, said Talabani's allegations sounded like the president was trying to prejudice the trial.

"Let's not have a trial on TV. Let the court of law, not the media, make its ruling on this," Alani said.

Alani, condemned Talabani's remarks and said the alleged confession "comes to me as a surprise, a big surprise."

"I have heard nothing whatsoever about this alleged media speculation," Alani told The Associated Press in Amman, Jordan. "This is a matter for the judiciary to decide on, not for politicians, and Jalal should know better than that."

Talabani did not elaborate on the purported confessions. It was uncertain, for example, that he was saying whether Saddam believed he was admitting to a crime or simply acknowledging having issued orders he believed were legal — something only a trial could determine.

Operation Anfal took place during Iraq's war with Iran, which the Iraqi government believed maintained ties to the Iraqi Kurds.

The 1991 suppression of Iraqi Shiites, another atrocity for which Saddam may face charges, occurred after the majority rose up after U.S.-led forces drove the Iraqi army from Kuwait. Shiite leaders had hoped — wrongly — that the Americans would intervene on their behalf.

Saddam's legal team said it plans to challenge the starting date as allowing insufficient time for a proper defense. Defense lawyers also said they would challenge the trial's legitimacy.

The attacks in Baghdad Wednesday killed Maj. Gen. Hadi Hassan Omran, an Iraqi Defense Ministry director general, as he drove through the southern Dora neighborhood, said Dr. Muhanad Jawad at Yarmouk hospital.

In a separate incident, the doctor said, gunmen killed Col. Ammar Ismail Arkan, an Interior Ministry commando, and wounded four bodyguards in Baghdad's western Ghazaliyah district.

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