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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 November 2007, 19:10 GMT
US 'stalling' on Iraq executions
By Jim Muir
BBC News, Baghdad

Ex-defence chief Sultan Hashim
Sultan Hashim's supporters say he did not drive policy
Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki has criticised US forces for failing to hand over for execution three former prominent figures in Saddam Hussein's regime.

The three, including Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali", were condemned to death for the campaign against the Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s.

There has been division in the Iraqi leadership over the executions and the US says it is waiting for consensus.

There is suspicion the US does not want ex-defence chief Sultan Hashim to hang.

It is on the former defence minister, one of Majid's alleged accomplices, that the controversy is focused.

The death sentences on the three were upheld by an appeals court in September.

Under Iraqi law, the three men should then have been hanged within 30 days.

But the verdict should also have been approved by the three-man presidential council and that is where the issue turned into a major political row.

'Incensed'

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd himself, opposes the death penalty in principle.

Ali Hassan al-Majid
"Chemical Ali" is the cousin of late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein

One of his two vice-presidents, Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, is particularly incensed by the death sentence on Sultan Hashim and has threatened to resign if it is carried out.

The Americans, who are physically holding the three convicted men, have refrained from handing them over to Mr Maliki's Shia-led government for execution.

Now Mr Maliki has lashed out at them, accusing the US embassy of dragging its feet and causing a violation of the constitution.

He insists all three men should be delivered for execution.

There is a strong suspicion the US is reluctant to see the former defence minister hang.

It has been widely reported that he was in touch with the CIA during Saddam Hussein's rule and took part in plots to unseat him.

Sultan Hashim's supporters, Sunnis and others, say that like many others at the time he was simply obeying orders and not driving policy.

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