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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 December, 2003, 14:54 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.

Seeing him like this, a man in his tragedy, despite all the heavy blame he bears, I had a sense of compassion for him
Cardinal Renato Martino

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.

A daughter of Saddam Hussein has said she believes her father was drugged before US soldiers captured him.

Rallies in support of the deposed Iraqi president have continued in central and northern Iraq along with attacks on security forces.


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

Road sealed off by police near St Peter's
The Vatican is on the alert for a terror attack over Christmas

"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.

Cardinal Martino was speaking as Italian police implemented new security arrangements at the Vatican following a warning that it could become a terror target during the Christmas season.

The main road leading to the Vatican is now to be closed every night during the Christmas holidays as a precaution.

Support for the 'lion'

Saddam Hussein's eldest daughter Raghad has called for an international trial for her father - saying the new, US-backed authorities in Iraq will not give him a free trial.

Saddam supporters in Falluja this week
Saddam still enjoys support among Iraq's Sunni Muslims

Speaking from Jordan, Raghad said she could not bear to see the pictures of her father put out by the US.

She insisted her father must have been drugged before his capture.

"Everyone who knew him closely knows that the man who was shown on television screens was a drugged Saddam Hussein," she told an Arabic television channel.

She added that she was proud of her father, whom she called a lion, and announced that she and her sisters Rana and Hala would appoint a lawyer to defend him in court.

Rallies inside Iraq in support of Saddam Hussein continued on Tuesday.

A demonstration in the northern city of Mosul ended in violence when gunmen shot dead one policeman and wounded another.

Earlier about 1,000 protesters had marched through the city chanting pro-Saddam slogans and condemning the US-administration and its Iraqi allies.

US troops backed by helicopters have moved in to disperse pro-Saddam protesters in the town of Falluja, killing one Iraqi they said had fired a grenade at them.

The previous day rioters seized the mayor's office in the town.

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