Report: Saddam could escape execution
Saddam Hussein could avoid execution under a secret proposal by rebel leaders that Iraq's new administration is "seriously considering", a senior government source said.
The Daily Telegraph reports that a reprieve is understood to be among the central demands of Sunni nationalists and former members of Saddam's Ba'ath party who have reportedly begun negotiations with the government.
Officials say they are looking for a way of joining the political process after January's election, which was boycotted by most of the Sunni minority.
The official said those involved in the negotiations included senior members of Saddam's Fedayeen group and the Jaish Mohammed, a grouping of former army officers that operates under the guise of an organisation.
But it is unclear if those at the talks genuinely represent a majority of the resistance groups. While a deal could represent an important step towards ending the violence that has plagued postwar Iraq, a reprieve for Saddam would infuriate many in the country. He is unlikely to come to trial before the end of this year, but Jalal Talabani, Iraq's new president, has already begun to prepare his people for a possible reprieve.
Asked about the fate of Saddam in an interview yesterday in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, the Kurdish president stated his personal opposition to a death sentence.
"I am among the lawyers who signed an international petition against the death penalty around the world and it would be a problem for me if Iraqi courts issued death sentences," he said.
Though Talabani's powers are largely ceremonial, he has the power, as the head of a three-man presidential council, to commute death sentences. The two vice presidents that make up the remainder of the council, Ghazi al Yawar, a Sunni, and Adel Abdul Mahdi, a Shia, have yet to state their positions.
Though Talabani is regarded as a hero, many Kurds say they oppos any plans not to execute Saddam.
"Anything but death for Saddam would be a travesty of justice," said Nawzad Othman, a greengrocer whose brother was among 5,000 Kurds killed in Halabja in 1988. "...(he) cannot be allowed to live."