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Iraqi Government Prepares to Take Custody of Saddam Hussein - 2004-06-29

Iraq's government is preparing to take legal custody of Saddam Hussein ahead of his expected trial on war crimes charges. Just a day after the United States handed sovereignty to the interim government in Baghdad, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi announced the former dictator and other members of his ousted regime will be arraigned later this week.

The charges against Saddam Hussein and his close associates will include genocide and crimes against humanity. "It will be an open trial. It will be an open court," said Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

During his first nationally televised press conference as a sovereign leader, Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi announced members of Saddam Hussein's government will now be called to account for the deaths or disappearances of some one million Iraqis.

"We would like to show the world also that the new Iraqi government means business and wants to do business and wants to stabilize Iraq and put it on the road towards democracy and peace," he added.

Rend Rahim, Iraq's soon to be named ambassador in Washington, predicts the tribunal that will try Saddam Hussein could get under way in a matter of weeks and may be difficult for the country. "It is going to be a very traumatic moment for Iraq, but it's a kind of a reverse trauma that Iraq needs to go through," she said.

Iraqis in Baghdad reacted with cautious optimism that the dictator who ruled the country for nearly three decades will be given a fair trial. "The main objections of Arab countries, Arab people, Arab communities about the arresting of Saddam Hussein is that he was arrested by Americans and not Iraqi people," said a Baghdad resident.

Monday's handover of power has not brought an end to attacks on Americans. Three more Marines were reported killed and two others wounded in Baghdad Tuesday by a roadside bomb. And, an American soldier who was captured in April has reportedly been executed, but 24 hours after the Arab network al-Jazeera broadcast video of the incident, the U.S. military could still not confirm the execution had taken place.

At the same time, Islamic militants are threatening to behead an American Marine, this one a Lebanese-born Muslim. Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun disappeared earlier this month after what a military spokesman would only call an unauthorized absence, but has since been seen on Arab television blindfolded with a sword held behind his head.

In light of the violence and attacks on foreigners, Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi says his government is discussing emergency security measures and plans to announce new steps to combat the insurgency later this week. He has already said martial law is one option under consideration.