December 28, 2006 The U.S. military announced five more American troop deaths: four soldiers hit by roadside bombs on patrol and a Marine killed in combat in volatile western Iraq. That raises U.S. troop deaths this month to 100, second only to the 105 service members who died in October.
(CBS/AP) A U.S. military officer tells CBS News that Saddam Hussein will be turned over to the Iraqi government within the next 36 hours. The officer expects that the Iraqis will execute their former leader before the start of the Eid religious holiday on Sunday, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin.
Iraqi officials also said that Saddam's final moments will be videotaped by the government, reports CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston.
"We will video everything," National Security adviser Mouffak al Rubaie said. "All documentation will be videoed. Taking him from cell to the execution is going to be videoed, and the actual execution will be documented and videoed."
Iraqis, members of the coalition and international representatives will witness the execution, Pinkston reports. It's not clear whether the videotape will be broadcast on Iraqi television.
Rubaie said the date of the deposed dictator's execution will not be made public, to avoid possible unrest from Saddam's supporters.
An Iraqi government official says efforts are under way to carry out the death sentence by the end of this month, indicating that they want to do the execution before Eid, which coincides with the New Year.
A top government official disputed the court's ruling that Saddam must be hanged within 30 days, saying the execution should be held after that time period. The comment comes amid debate over other legal procedures such as whether the presidency is required to approve the execution.
"The law does not say within 30 days, it says after the lapse of 30 days," said Busho Ibrahim, deputy justice minister. There was no immediate explanation for the conflicting claims.
In other developments:
In search of a new U.S. strategy on Iraq, President Bush met at his ranch Thursday morning with his top national security advisers. Afterwards, he said he's making good progress in coming up with a new plan for Iraq, reports CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller.
Many of the American soldiers trying to quell sectarian killings in Baghdad say the temporary surge in troop levels some people are calling for is a bad idea. In dozens of interviews with soldiers of the Army's 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment as they patrolled the streets of eastern Baghdad, many said the Iraqi capital is embroiled in civil warfare between majority Shiite Muslims and Sunni Arabs that no number of American troops can stop.
In a 2004 interview embargoed for release after his death, former president Gerald Ford told the Washington Post the war in Iraq was unjustified and that he very strongly disagreed with President Bush's reasons for attacking Iraq.
The U.S. Embassy said Thursday it believes four American security contractors and an Austrian remain in captivity after their kidnapping in southern Iraq six weeks ago. The men were captured Nov. 16 when a large convoy of trucks being escorted by their Crescent Security Group was hijacked on a highway near Safwan, a city on the border with Kuwait, by suspected militiamen dressed in Iraqi police uniforms.
At least 27 Iraqis were killed on Thursday, and the U.S. military announced the deaths of three American soldiers and a Marine, all but the Marine from bombings. Two soldiers were killed when a bomb exploded near their foot patrol southwest of Baghdad, and one died in an eastern section of the Iraqi capital. The Marine, assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, was killed in action during combat operations in Iraq's western Anbar province Wednesday.
Saddam's chief lawyer urged the United States on Thursday not to hand over the ousted leader to Iraqi authorities before his expected execution because he is a "war prisoner."
A top Vatican official condemned the death sentence against Saddam in a newspaper interview published Thursday, acknowledging the crimes of the ousted Iraqi leader but reiterating that capital punishment goes against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
Human Rights Watch, an international watchdog group, says Saddam was certainly a human rights violator, but Iraq's government shouldn't execute him. "The true test of respect for human rights comes when the human rights of someone who has violated in unspeakable ways the human rights of many millions of people comes into play," said the group's Richard Dicker.
Lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi called on international and legal organizations, including the Arab League and United Nations, to "rapidly prevent" the Americans from handing Saddam to the Iraqis.
"According to the international conventions it is forbidden to hand a prisoner of war to his adversary," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Iraq's highest court on Tuesday rejected Saddam's appeal against his conviction and death sentence for the killing of 148 people who were detained after an attempt to assassinate him in the northern Iraqi city of Dujail in 1982. The court said the former president should be hanged within 30 days.
Saddam is being held at Camp Cropper, an American military prison close to Baghdad's airport. The U.S. military has had Saddam Hussein in its custody, on behalf of the Iraqis, since his capture.
An official close to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said that Saddam would remain in a U.S. military prison until he is handed over to Iraqi authorities on the day of his execution. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Al-Dulaimi warned that turning over Saddam to the Iraqis would increase the sectarian violence that already is tearing the country apart.
"If the American administration insists in handing the president to the Iraqis, it would commit a great strategic mistake which would lead to the escalation of the violence in Iraq and the eruption of a destructive civil war," he said.
Issam Ghazzawi, another member of Saddam's defense team, said there was no way of knowing when Saddam's execution would take place.
"The only person who can predict the execution of the president ... is God and Bush," Ghazzawi said on Thursday.
In a goodbye letter posted on the Internet on Wednesday, Saddam urged Iraqis to embrace "brotherly coexistence" and not to hate the U.S.-led troops.
"I call on you not to hate because hate does not leave space for a person to be fair and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking," said the letter.
Saddam is in the midst of another trial, one in which he's charged with genocide and other crimes during a 1987-88 military crackdown on Kurds in northern Iraq. An estimated 180,000 Kurds died during the operation. That trial was adjourned until Jan. 8, and experts have said the trial of Saddam's co-defendants is likely to continue even if he is executed.
Cardinal Renato Martino, Pope Benedict XVI's top prelate for justice issues and a former Vatican envoy to the United Nations, said Saddam's execution would punish "a crime with another crime" and expressed hope that the sentence would not be carried out.
In the interview with Rome daily La Repubblica, Martino reiterated the Vatican's staunch opposition to the death penalty, saying that life must be safeguarded from its beginning to its "natural" end.
"The death penalty is not a natural death. And no one can give death, not even the State," he said.
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