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Baghdad Under Curfew for 2nd Day, Bush Praises Saddam Verdict


There have been mixed reactions in Iraq following Saddam Hussein's conviction for crimes against humanity. Iraqi Shiites led jubilant celebrations across much of the country while outraged Sunnis protested the former dictator's death sentence.

Strict daytime curfews remained in effect throughout much of the day Monday, as Iraqi officials in and around Baghdad braced for a possible violent backlash against the landmark ruling.

In Saddam's hometown, Tikrit, more than 1,000 people defied a daytime curfew Sunday to protest the final verdict.

Hundreds of protesters also participated in demonstrations, outside Kirkuk, in support of the ousted Iraqi dictator.

Local media reported scattered violence in mostly Sunni neighborhoods in Northern Baghdad. But speaking to reporters in the capital Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, dismissed reports of any widespread attacks. He says the violence may increase in the next few days, but over all the government believes the verdict will help improve security throughout the country.

An Iraqi tribunal convicted Saddam for the 1982 killing of 148 Shiite men and boys in Dujail, following an assassination attempt on the president.

The verdict has sharply divided the country, highlighting Iraq's deep ethnic and sectarian split.

Although Saddam's Sunni supporters staged protests north of Baghdad, thousands of Shiites celebrated throughout the capital and other parts of the country.

Triumphant gunfire erupted across Baghdad, moments after Saddam was sentenced to death.

In Sadr City, the capital's largest Shiite community, hundreds of people ran into the streets to celebrate.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki says the judgment ended a dark chapter in the country's history. He says Iraqis want a country where everyone is equal before the law.

President Bush declared the verdict a milestone in the Iraqi people's efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law.

Saddam remained defiant throughout the year-long trial. Sunday was no exception. As his final sentence was issued, he called the chief judge a traitor and, as he was led from the court, shouted long live Iraq and down with the occupiers.

Saddam's death sentence will automatically be forwarded to a nine-member court of appeal, within 10 days.

Once submitted, the defense has 20 days to make its case.

Local officials say a final verdict could come within a few weeks, although there is no set time limit imposed on the court. If it is upheld Saddam's death sentence will have to be carried out within 30 days of the court's ruling.

Saddam is also mid-way through a second war crimes trial, centered on the so-called Anfal campaign against Iraq's Kurdish population in the late 1980's.

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