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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 November 2006, 21:02 GMT
Iraqi PM on Saddam and the future
By John Simpson
World affairs editor, BBC News, Baghdad

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki
Nouri Maliki made his strongest criticism yet of post-war planning

The prime minister of Iraq, Nouri Maliki, has told the BBC he expects Saddam Hussein to be executed within two months.

"We are waiting for the decision of the appeals court," he told me in an interview, "and if it confirms the sentence it will be the government's responsibility to carry it out.

"We would like the whole world to respect Iraq's judicial will. I expect the execution to happen before the end of this year," he said.

There has been talk that the execution might not take place if President Jalal Talabani or one of the country's vice-presidents refused to sign the necessary legal instruments.

But Mr Maliki said this would not prevent the execution. It was possible, he said, that decisions by the special court which tried the case did not require these signatures.

'Parallel political track'

I asked the prime minister when he thought the Iraqi police and army would be ready to take over the major role in fighting the insurgency.

Several senior American generals have shown recently that they were sceptical about the Iraqis' ability to fight their own war.

Mr Maliki, however, was forthright: "It will definitely happen within a matter of months," he said.

The [American and British] leaders on the ground had no knowledge of understanding of the situation in Iraq
Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki

Iraq was, he said, recruiting 50,000 more soldiers and the same number of policemen in order to take over the main burden of fighting the insurgency.

But Mr Maliki believed that there had to be a parallel political track as well, and said he had been successful in drawing several opposition groups away from the insurgency and into partnership with the government.

He strongly denied any suggestion that he favoured Shia militia groups, but made it clear that he did not consider the Mehdi Army, a major Shia military grouping, to be a militia.

The leaders of the Mehdi Army are his political allies.

Mr Maliki gave no sign that he was planning any important concessions to the Sunni population, though his officials have said that the American-imposed ban on former Baathists taking official positions will be lifted.

'No adequate planning'

In the United States, several senior neo-conservatives who supported the invasion have had second thoughts about the occupation of Iraq. How did Mr Maliki feel about it?

The result was the strongest criticism of the occupation any Iraqi leader has yet made publicly.

"We thought that when the United States and the United Kingdom forces were preparing to go into Iraq, they would have a clear understanding about Iraq, socially, politically and security-wise.

"But there was no adequate planning for the period after regime change. The leaders on the ground had no knowledge of understanding of the situation in Iraq," he said.

And he added, with studied under-statement: "We could have had less trouble if this had been dealt with in a better way."

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