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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 December, 2003, 14:15 GMT
Vatican slams handling of Saddam
US doctors examine Saddam Hussein's teeth
Images of Saddam in custody were flashed around the world
A top Roman Catholic official has attacked the way Saddam Hussein was treated by his US captors, saying he had been dealt with like an animal.

Cardinal Renato Martino said he had felt pity watching video of "this man destroyed, [the military] looking at his teeth as if he were a beast".

The cardinal, a leading critic of the US-led war in Iraq, said he hoped the capture would not make matters "worse".

A senior US official has defended the decision to show the pictures.

The official said the broadcast of Saddam Hussein undergoing a medical examination was allowed under the Geneva Conventions in order to maintain peace and security.

There was no attempt to humiliate the prisoner, the official said.

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However, Cardinal Martino said on Tuesday that the US "could have spared us these pictures".

"Seeing him like this, a man in his tragedy, despite all the heavy blame he bears, I had a sense of compassion for him," he told reporters.

The cardinal said the arrest was a "watershed" development but he hoped it would "not have... serious consequences".

The Vatican has consistently opposed the attack on Iraq and the cardinal added that it would be "illusory" to hope that Saddam Hussein's capture would "repair the dramas and the damage" the war had wrought.


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