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Iraqis want to try Saddam themselves
Updated: 2004-02-16 08:56

Iraq will ask the United States to remove Saddam Hussein's status as a prisoner of war and hand him to Iraqis for trial, the nation's foreign minister said Sunday.

Hoshyar Zebari said in Kuwait that the new Iraqi government will request that Saddam is "handed over to the Iraqi justice." Zebari was speaking at the end of a two-day meeting with delegates from Iraq's neighbors.

"We have agreed with the United States and the coalition forces that whenever we are ready as Iraqis, and especially after we regain power ... we will demand changing Saddam's status as a prisoner of war," Zebari said.

Washington, which plans to transfer power to Iraqis on June 30, declared Saddam a war prisoner last month because of his status as former commander in chief of Iraq's military.

POW status under the Geneva Conventions grants Saddam certain rights, including access to visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross and freedom from coercion of any kind during interrogations.

The United States has said it wants an Iraqi court to try Saddam, who has been in its custody under CIA interrogation since his capture Dec. 13.

Prisoner of war status does not preclude prosecution or even the imposition of the death penalty, an ICRC spokeswoman has said.

However, POW status prevents Saddam from being tried simply because he led Iraq's military. Rather, there must be evidence he committed war crimes or a crime against humanity, ICRC spokeswoman Nada Doumani said last week.

Washington says Saddam's government killed at least 300,000 Iraqis, including thousands of Iraqi Kurds in a poison gas attack in 1988.

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