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Iraq's Interim Government to Try Saddam, Associates, in War Crimes Tribunal - 2003-07-15


Iraq's new governing council says it will establish a court to try former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and members of his ousted regime for war crimes. Establishing a tribunal is only one of many issues the two-day old governing body is trying to address.

A spokesman for council member Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress says that the deposed Iraqi leader as well as other Baath Party members on the U.S. most wanted list, will be tried in court for crimes against humanity.

The spokesman, Entifadh Qanbar, says the council unanimously agreed that Saddam and his associates must answer for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, who were murdered during Saddam's rule. Mr. Qanbar did not say, however, when the tribunal might be established.

He also announced that three council members, Ahmed Chalabi, Adnan Bachechi, and Aquila al-Hashimi, one of the council's three female members, would go the United Nations in New York on July 22. They are to represent the governing council as the new authority in Iraq.

During a news conference on Tuesday, the U.S. administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, praised the formation of the governing council, which he called a strong partner in forming a fully democratic Iraq. The council is charged with, among other things, helping draft a new constitution that will set the stage for national elections in late 2004 or early 2005.

Some Iraqi groups have severely criticized the 25-member council because Mr. Bremer's provisional administration played a major role in choosing the members and because the council is required to consult the administration on all major issues.

But Mr. Bremer says it is the council and the Iraqi people who are now firmly in charge of running the country.

"Writing the constitution will be an Iraqi affair," he said. "The constitution will be written by Iraqis, for Iraqis. The final product will be submitted to the Iraqi people in a referendum. Once approved, democratic, free and fair elections can be held in Iraq for a fully sovereign Iraqi government. And then, our job, the coalition's job, will be done. We have no desire to stay a day longer than it is necessary."

The 25-member Iraqi governing council is comprised of prominent Iraqis from different religious, ethnic and political groups. The body has the power to name ministers and approve budgets.

Next week, the council is expected to begin the task of forming a cabinet and filling ministries.