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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 March 2006, 15:40 GMT
Saddam's trial hears defendants
Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants in court
Saddam Hussein faces the death penalty if he is convicted
Co-defendants in Saddam Hussein's trial have given testimony for the first time about their alleged role in a mass killing, at their trial in Baghdad.

Almost 150 villagers were killed in Dujail in 1982 after an assassination attempt on the deposed Iraqi leader.

At the last hearing some two weeks ago, Saddam Hussein told the court he alone was responsible for the killings but insisted no crime had been committed.

The trial resumed as fresh violence in Baghdad left at least 25 people dead.

In the latest attack, a car bomb has exploded near a market in the Shia district of Sadr City, killing at least five people.

In a separate development, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has announced that the country's new parliament will meet for the first time on Thursday.

The first sitting had originally been postponed by a week to 19 March, as parties argued over who should take the country's top political posts.

The date has now been changed to 16 March "to give the security forces time to... prepare for the (Shia ceremony of) Arbain," a statement from the presidential office said.


Sunday's session began with the presiding judge calling former Baath party official Mizhir Abdullah Ruwayyid to testify.

I swear to God I have never hurt a human being
Mizhir Abdullah Ruwayyid

He denied testimony by previous witnesses accusing him of helping in the round-up of Dujail residents and demolition of their property following the assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein on 8 July 1982.

"I swear to God I have never hurt a human being," Mizhir Abdullah Ruwayyid told the court, adding that he was not present in Dujail on 8 July.

His father Abdullah and another former Baath party official Ali Daih Ali were then brought to the dock one-by-one, testifying separately under the questioning of the chief judge. They also denied any wrongdoing.

The trial has been adjourned until Monday, when it will continue with further testimonies from the defendants, who all deny the charges against them.

Saddam Hussein said earlier all those killed had been tried in accordance with laws in force at the time.

The former Iraqi leader could face the death penalty if convicted.

Saddam's 'fears'

A leading US newspaper, meanwhile, reported that Saddam Hussein saw internal rebellion as his top threat even after the US-led invasion began in 2003.

Citing a classified US military report and other documents, the New York Times said that approach had crippled the Iraqi army's fighting ability.

It said Saddam Hussein - concerned that the majority Shias could take up arms against his Sunni-led government - continued to make key decisions himself well after the invasion began.

He relied heavily on his sons for military counsel, often blocking communications among commanders.

The paper also said that top Iraqi commanders were stunned when Saddam Hussein told them three months before the invasion that he had no weapons of mass destruction.

To collect the material for the report, US military analysts questioned more than 110 Iraqi officials and military officers, the newspaper said.

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