BAGHDAD, Iraq - As Saddam Hussein's lawyer made a last-ditch effort to impede
his execution Thursday, the White House was preparing for the ousted dictator to
be hanged as early as this weekend, a senior administration official said.
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein yells at the court as a
bailiff attempts to silence him as the verdict is delivered during his
trial held under tight security in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone,
Sunday Nov. 5, 2006. Iraq's High Tribunal on Sunday found Saddam Hussein
guilty of crimes against humanity and sentence him to die by hanging.
The timetable was based on
information that US officials in Baghdad received from the Iraqi government.
But, there were differing accounts.
The plea from Saddam's attorney came as the US military reported the deaths
of eight more troops and announced that Iraqi forces, backed by American forces,
captured an al-Qaida in Iraq cell leader believed responsible for the June
kidnapping of two soldiers who were found tortured and killed.
Iraq's deputy justice minister, Bosho Ibrahim, said Saddam shouldn't be
hanged for another few weeks. "The law does not say within 30 days, it says
after the lapse of 30 days," Ibrahim said.
He did not explain the discrepancy between his interpretation and the
court's, nor could he give a specific execution date.
With at least 72 more Iraqis killed in sectarian violence, US officials and
Iraqis expressed concern about the potential for even worse bloodshed following
Saddam's execution. His lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, said transferring Saddam to
Iraqi authorities could be the trigger.
"If the American administration insists in handing the president to the
Iraqis, it would commit a great strategic mistake which would lead to the
escalation of the violence in Iraq and the eruption of a destructive civil war,"
al-Dulaimi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Iraq's highest court on Tuesday rejected Saddam's appeal against his
conviction and death sentence for the killing of 148 Shiites in the northern
city of Dujail in 1982. The court said the former president should be hanged
within 30 days.
Al-Dulaimi, Saddam's lawyer, said the ousted leader should enjoy protection
from his enemies as a "prisoner of war" and remain in US custody.
"According to the international conventions, it is forbidden to hand a
prisoner of war to his adversary," al-Dulaimi said.
"I urge all the international and legal organizations, the United Nations
secretary-general, the Arab League and all the leaders of the world to rapidly
prevent the American administration from handing the president to the Iraqi
authorities," al-Dulaimi said.
An official close to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said Saddam
would remain in a U.S. military prison until he is delivered to Iraqi
authorities on the day of his execution. The official spoke on condition of
anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Iraqi government offices shut down ahead of an Islamic holiday this weekend,
and there was confusion over when Saddam would be executed and whether President
Jalal Talabani was required to approve such action.