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IRAQ - May 24 - Tariq Aziz Takes The Stand For Saddam.

Iraq's ex-Deputy PM Tareq Aziz makes his first public appearance in three years on the stand for Saddam Hussain, calling on the court to try current leaders for attacks on the state in the 1980s. Aziz, the highest profile witness for Saddam, was once the international public face of the toppled leader's government and one of his closest aides. He tried to turn the tables around in the trial that started in October by accusing one of the parties now in power, the Islamist Shi'ite Dawa of new PM Nuri al-Maliki, of trying to kill him and Saddam in the 1980s. Maliki's national unity government of Shi'ites, minority Sunni Arabs and Kurds took office May 20 on a pledge to rein in guerrilla and sectarian attacks plaguing Iraq three years after US forces toppled Saddam. In new violence highlighting the challenge the tough-talking Maliki faces, gunmen shot dead a police general in Baghdad and tribal clashes south of the capital killed 16, police said. Saddam and seven co-defendants are accused of bloody reprisals, including the killings of 148 Shi'ites, in the town of Dujail after a failed assassination bid on Saddam in 1982 by the Dawa party. "I'm a victim of criminal acts committed by a party presently in power now. Try them", said Aziz, referring to a hand grenade attack at a Baghdad university in 1980, which he escaped with a broken arm and a few cuts. "They killed dozens of students". Aziz, a long-time ally of Saddam, said the separate assassination attempt in Dujail was part of a series of operations targeting officials and civilians and Iraqi officials had every right to crack down on the Dawa. "Weren't the killings at Mustansiriya University a mass killing?", Aziz asked the court. "And now you are judging officials, accusing them of mass killings". Aziz, whose family says he is seriously ill, was number 43 on the US most-wanted list of Iraqi officials when he gave himself up in April 2003. US forces, seeking to quell an insurgency of mainly Saddam loyalists and al Qaeda militants that erupted after his overthrow, said on May 24 they killed seven militants in two separate operations the previous day. The US and Britain are keen for progress on the ground so that they can start withdrawing their combined 140,000 troops from Iraq, suffering daily roadside bomb and other attacks. They hope that participation of the Sunni minority, which dominated Iraq under Saddam, in Maliki's government will help defuse the insurgency. Maliki, who has vowed to use "maximum force against terrorists", said this week his forces could take charge of security in most of Iraq by the end of this year, except for Baghdad and insurgent strongholds in its west. Security analysts have voiced doubts about the ability of Iraq's fledgling security forces to take over from US and British troops and restore stability in the strife-torn country. Maliki also faces a highly sensitive task in choosing interior and defence ministers whose main mission will be to combat insurgents and check the sectarian violence that erupted after a Shi'ite shrine was bombed in February. In yet another reminder of the difficult security situation, gunmen shot dead police General Ahmad Dawod on his way to work in Baghdad morning, police said. The killing of Dawod, a deputy chief of Baghdad municipality's protection units, appeared to be part of a campaign to assassinate prominent Iraqi officials. It came a day after three separate bomb attacks killed at least 21 people in Baghdad, including 11 when a bomb hidden in a motorcycle exploded outside a Shi'ite mosque. South of the capital, clashes between rival Sunni and Shi'ite tribes over land have killed around 16 people, police sources said. Eighteen people were wounded in May 23 fighting between the two feuding tribes close to the town of Suwayra, about 40km (25 miles) south of Baghdad. A Reuters reporter saw 14 bodies that had been taken to Suwayra's hospital. Police arrested 10 people, a police source said, adding the security forces were now in control of the situation. While guerrilla and sectarian attacks have killed thousands of people in Iraq since 2003, large-scale fighting between tribes is unusual.
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Title Annotation:Saddam Hussain
Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:May 29, 2006
Words:699
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