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Britain signals support for Saddam trial in Iraq.

LONDON, Dec. 15 Kyodo

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Monday it is up to the people of Iraq to decide how former President Saddam Hussein is tried.

On the question of the trial of the former Iraqi leader, Blair told parliament, ''That is something that should be determined by the Iraqi government.'' He added that the Iraqi Governing Council should ensure there will be a ''proper, independent and fair process.''

''I'm quite sure the Iraqis are capable of that,'' he added.

Speaking about such a war crimes trial earlier in the day, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said it is ''very likely'' the Iraqis will express a ''strong preference'' for a trial in Iraq.

Straw cited the statutes of the International Criminal Court which state that wherever possible war criminals should be tried by tribunals in the country concerned, rather than overseas.

Despite the fact that Britain is opposed to the death penalty, Straw suggested that Britain would leave it to the relevant authorities to decide Saddam's ultimate fate.

''It is an obvious reality that the death penalty exists and is used by other countries -- and that in the end the appropriate level of punishment is a matter for sovereign governments, and then for their courts,'' he told reporters.

The foreign secretary was speaking at a joint press conference with former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, who is in London to give details of Japan's planned dispatch of troops to Iraq.

Straw said he did not think that the interrogation of Saddam would yield very much new information given the former leader's past record.

Meanwhile, the British media, while welcoming news of Saddam's capture on Saturday at a farm complex near Tikrit, also voiced caution about the future.

The left-leaning Guardian newspaper said there is now a risk that the rivalries between the various factions running Iraq could increase, now that the main focus of their hatred -- Saddam -- had gone.

The Financial Times said it is important that the coalition embraced the Sunni community which is considered to be more loyal to the ousted leader.

''The main danger they face (the coalition) is an implosion into sectarian strife of the type that destroyed Lebanon in 1975-90 -- and sucked in all its neighbors.''

The Times newspaper supported the idea of the Iraqis trying Saddam, saying that the effect will be ''cathartic.''

''And it will have an accelerator effect on the rebuilding of Iraq by forcing the fledgling state to set up the appropriate organs of justice,'' it said.

The Independent said the trial should take place in Iraq under the auspices of the United Nations with some international judges.

''It cannot be right that the Iraqis alone, before they have a sovereign government and before they have an established democratic legal system, should decide Saddam's fate,'' the newspaper said.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Dec 22, 2003
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