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Iraqi PM, in Kurdistan, Vows to Punish Halabja Attackers

Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has visited the northern town of Halabja, where he vowed to punish those behind the 1988 poison gas attacks on Kurdish civilians.

He made the vow during the second day of a trip aimed at defusing tense relations with officials in the autonomous Kurdish region. Mr. Maliki said the central government will demand just punishment for those responsible for past atrocities.

More than 5,000 Iraqi Kurds were killed during the March 1988 gas attack on Halabja by forces of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

A cousin of Saddam Hussein, Ali Hassan al-Majeed, and three others are now on trial for their role in the Halabja attack.

The late dictator ordered the assault as of part a broader "scorched-earth" campaign to put down an Iraqi Kurdish rebellion that was viewed as aiding Iran during the Iraq-Iran war.

Mr. Maliki has held talks with top Kurdish leaders in recent days, trying to reach agreement on dividing up control of oil and land between the autonomous Kurdish government and Iraq's central government in Baghdad.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.