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UN Security Council to Discuss Future of Iraq - 2003-12-16


With Saddam Hussein in custody, the U.N. Security Council meets Tuesday to consider Iraq's future. Debate is already raging over how and where the former Iraqi leader should be tried and whether he should face the death penalty.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters Monday he cannot support capital punishment for Sadam Hussein, even though the captured former leader is accused of what he termed "heinous crimes."

"The U.N. does not support the death penalty. All the courts we've set up have not included the death penalty. So, as Secretary-General, as the U.N. as an organization, we are not going to now turn around and support the death penalty," he said.

That puts Mr. Annan at odds with Iraqi Governing Council President Abdel Aziz al-Hakim who was quoted as saying the former Iraqi leader should be executed.

The Governing Council last week adopted a measure creating a special war crimes tribunal. It could be used for cases such as Saddam Hussein's.

Iraq's interim Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari will also attend Tuesday's meeting and is expected to face intense questioning on the tribunal.

Mr. Annan said he had not had time to study how the tribunal would operate, but suggested he would oppose any court where Saddam might face the death penalty.

"I believe this should be done through open trials, in properly established courts of law, which will respect international norms and standards, including respect for humanitarian law," he said.

In his appearance before the Security Council Tuesday, Mr. Annan is certain to face increasing pressure for the world body to take on a more prominent role alongside the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. The Secretary-General has been unusually blunt in his criticism of the U.S. approach to returning Iraq to civilian rule and has been reluctant to redeploy staff in Baghdad, pointing to security concerns.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte says now more than ever, Washington will push for a more substantial U.N. involvement.

"We would hope there would be expression, either individually or collectively by members of the council, in support of economic reconstruction of Iraq, in support of its political evolution in terms of stabilization of the security situation there," he said. "I think an affirmation of support for political, economic and security development of Iraq would be most welcome and most appropriate."

Ambassador Negroponte said however, that he does not foresee another Security Council resolution on Iraq. He says previous resolutions already spell out a vital U.N. role in the country.

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