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Iraq Court Upholds Death Sentence For Top Saddam Officials

An appeals court in Iraq has upheld the death sentences of several former top officials of Saddam Hussein's government. The best known is "Chemical Ali" who got his grim nickname for using poison gas against the Kurds during the 1980s. VOA' s Jim Randle reports from northern Iraq.

Chemical Ali's real name is Ali Hassan al-Majid. The latest court decision confirms the death sentence, handed down in June, for his role in the so-called Anfal campaign of the late 1980s that killed an estimated 180,000 Iraqi Kurds.

The chairman of Iraq's High Tribunal, Arif Abdul Razaq, announced the decision against al-Majid and two co-defendants. The court said the men would be executed within 30 days.

The former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was convicted and hanged last year for ordering the murders of Iraqi Shi'ites from the village of Dujail in 1982.

As Iraq's courts wrestle with issues of justice, its parliament reconvened Tuesday after a month-long break. Lawmakers are under mounting pressure from Washington to make compromises intended to heal the deep divisions among the nation's Shi'ites, Sunnis, and Kurds.

Among the issues Parliament is trying to deal with is how the nation's oil industry will operate and how oil revenue will be shared. Parliament is also to work on easing restrictions for former members of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath political party.

Washington considers these issues crucial so that improvements in security on the ground translate into political reconciliation. President Bush visited Iraq briefly on Monday, in part to urge top Iraqi leaders to make progress on these issues.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh talked about the visit in a telephone interview on Iraqi television.

Dabbagh said Mr. Bush's visit sent a clear message of support for the Iraqi government. He said this is a poor time to change governments.

Some U.S. Senators have said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should be replaced. Mr. Bush says that is up to the Iraqi people.