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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 December, 2003, 03:58 GMT
Bush calls for Saddam execution
Saddam Hussein
Mr Bush said the Iraqi people should decide Saddam's fate
US President George W Bush has said that the captured former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein should pay the "ultimate penalty" for his crimes.

"This is a disgusting tyrant who deserves... the ultimate justice," he said in a US television interview.

His comments put the US sharply at odds with the United Nations and European allies who oppose the death penalty.

Earlier, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced the CIA would take charge of interrogating Saddam Hussein.

In the aftermath of the deposed leader's capture on Saturday, Mr Bush avoided answering questions on what punishment he wanted to see imposed.

But his latest comments confirm what most people believed were the Texan president's views, says the BBC's Justin Webb, in Washington.

"Let's just see what penalty he gets, but I think he ought to receive the ultimate penalty ... for what he has done to his people," Mr Bush told ABC News.

"I mean, he is a torturer, a murderer, they had rape rooms. This is a disgusting tyrant who deserves justice, the ultimate justice."

But the president said that he did not want a "kangaroo court", and that only the Iraqi people should decide what punishment their former leader deserved.

In other developments:

  • US forces say they are continuing a big operation to isolate and eliminate insurgents in the town of Samarra, north of Baghdad. They have already arrested more than 70 suspects;

  • United Nations chief Kofi Annan said the UN was ready to play its full part in helping Iraq, but "much greater clarity" was needed as to what was expected from it;

  • The interim Iraqi Foreign Minister appealed to the United Nations to move back to Iraq and help with its reconstruction.

Saddam 'resigned'

Earlier, Mr Rumsfeld said he had asked the CIA chief, George Tenet, to take responsibility for the interrogation of Saddam Hussein.

Mr Rumsfeld refused to comment on whether he had revealed any useful information so far and described the former leader's relationship with his captors simply as "resigned".

He was being accorded the protection of a prisoner of war, but his actual legal status was still being decided, Mr Rumsfeld said.

He also defended showing pictures of Saddam Hussein as a prisoner, undergoing medical checks.

"If lives can be saved by physical proof that that man is off the street, out of commission, never to return, then we opt for saving lives," Mr Rumsfeld said.

'Dead or alive'

There has been much speculation in the American media about the form that Saddam Hussein's interrogation might take.

In his television interview, President Bush said he did not know what precise techniques were being employed, but he said we do not use torture.

Mr Bush also had a warning for the US's most-wanted man - al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, saying he would be captured "dead or alive".

"We're on his trail, too. He's probably in a hole somewhere hiding from justice," Mr Bush said.

The BBC's Matt Prodger
"Another day, another bomb"


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