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Saddam Hussein Trial Will be a Test for New Iraqi Leaders, says Britain - 2003-12-15

Britain says an Iraqi tribunal probably will try Saddam Hussein, but the proceedings must meet international standards of fairness.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters the world community will be watching to see how Iraq's interim leaders handle a possible trial of the former Iraqi president.

"Everybody understands, not least the Governing Council, that if there is to be a trial taking place inside Iraq, then it will have to be both fair and been seen to be fair," said Mr. Straw.

The foreign secretary said Britain would oppose the death penalty for Saddam Hussein. Earlier, the senior British representative in Iraq, Jeremy Greenstock, said Britain would play no part in a trial that might lead to Saddam Hussein's execution.

Mr. Straw said he has no expectation that Saddam Hussein will reveal any details about weapons of mass destruction, which was Britain's primary reason for going to war in Iraq.

"Frankly, I am not holding my breath for any confession statement from Saddam Hussein," he said. "His history of mendacity is so intense and so long-lasting that he wouldn't understand the truth if he fell over it."

In a related development, Prime Minister Tony Blair's human rights envoy to Iraq, Ann Clwyd, says it is probably too late to establish a U.N. war crimes tribunal for Iraq.

But she told British radio Iraqi officials have agreed that international advisers should assist them in conducting proceedings against suspected human-rights abusers.