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Saddam to Stand Trial in 2 Months | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Jalal Taliban elected Iraqi President

Jalal Taliban elected Iraqi President

Jalal Taliban elected Iraqi President

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Saddam Hussein could go on trial for crimes against humanity within two months, far earlier than expected, Iraq”s new president, Jalal Talabani, said on Tuesday.

Asked in an interview televised on CNN when Saddam”s trial would begin, Talabani said: &#34I hope within two months.&#34

Leading Iraqi politicians have said several times that the trial could start within months. But Iraqi prosecutors and their U.S. advisers say a trial is more likely in 2006, after several of Saddam”s lieutenants have been tried, to help build the case against the former dictator.

Iraqi leaders hope that trials of Saddam and his allies will help restore public confidence, sapped by relentless insurgent violence and political bickering that delayed the formation of a cabinet for months.

In Baghdad, Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari condemned the arrest by U.S. troops on Monday of senior Sunni politician Mohsen Abdul-Hamid, leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party.

He said he had demanded an explanation from the top American general in Iraq for the 12-hour detention, which the military has said was a mistake.

The arrest threatened to put further strain on relations between Iraq”s Sunni Arab and Shi”ite communities at a time when some have expressed fears of a slide towards civil war.

Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has said he wants to sow sectarian conflict in Iraq, sent a message to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden saying he had suffered only &#34minor wounds&#34, denying reports he was seriously hurt, according to an audio tape attributed to him.

In the latest losses for U.S.-led forces in Iraq, four Italians, four Americans and an Iraqi were killed in two aircraft crashes in Iraq, officials said.

A six-seater Iraqi Air Force plane crashed 150 km (90 miles) northeast of Baghdad on Monday, killing four U.S. Air Force personnel and an Iraqi pilot, Iraq”s Defence Ministry said.

A ministry spokesman said he believed the plane came down in a sandstorm. The U.S. military said the cause was being investigated.

Overnight, an Italian military helicopter crashed outside the southern city of Nassiriya as it returned from Kuwait, killing the two pilots and two gunners. The cause of the crash was unknown, but it was believed to be non-hostile.

Three military aircraft have now crashed in Iraq in the past week. On May 26, militants shot down a U.S. observation chopper as it flew over Baquba, just north of Baghdad.

At a news conference, Prime Minister Jaafari promised that politician Abdul-Hamid”s arrest would be investigated and said the head of U.S. forces in Iraq should explain.

&#34That was a mistake and we condemn it,&#34 he told reporters.

Relatives of Abdul-Hamid said U.S. troops broke down the door of his family home, ransacked the house and put a hood over his head before carting him and his three sons away.

In his speech to parliament, Jaafari said he hoped a new constitution, due to be drafted by mid-August, would be drawn up on time, but admitted it was a tight deadline. He also said improving security, his biggest headache, was a formidable task.

&#34There are big problems, we don”t claim that we”ll remove all obstacles, but we”ll make a tangible difference in security and public services,&#34 he said.

On Sunday his government launched Operation Lightning, saying it would put 40,000 Iraqi police and soldiers on the streets of Baghdad to hit back at insurgents.

Jaafari said the operation, which includes setting up checkpoints throughout the city, had so far resulted in a large number of arrests of Iraqi and foreign militants and the discovery of several car bomb workshops.

Car bombs are perhaps Iraq”s biggest threat. In May, 140 explosives-laden vehicles detonated across the country, a huge rise from 2004 monthly figures. This month, more than 750 Iraqis and 70 U.S. troops have been killed in attacks.

Al Qaeda”s network in Iraq, headed by Zarqawi, has claimed responsibility for many of those attacks.

In the Internet audio tape released on Monday, a voice purported to be Zarqawi”s assured bin Laden he was fit and leading the anti-American fight in Iraq.

&#34I think news has reached your ears through the media that I was seriously wounded … I would like to assure you and assure Muslims that these are baseless rumours and that my wounds are minor,&#34 said the speaker.

&#34I am now with the help of God enjoying good health among my brothers and my people in Iraq.&#34 The voice sounded like that of Zarqawi — Washington”s number one enemy in Iraq with a $25 million bounty on his head.

In fresh violence on Tuesday, a truck bomb exploded near an Iraqi military checkpoint in Baquba, killing two soldiers and wounding nine, police and doctors said.

In western Iraq”s violent Anbar province, provincial governor Raja Nawaf, kidnapped earlier this month, was found dead along with his militant captors after they clashed with U.S. forces, a government spokesman said.

Former Iraqi President

Former Iraqi President

Saddam on his way to court

Saddam on his way to court