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No Need for International Tribunal for Saddam, says British PM - 2003-12-15

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says Saddam Hussein can get a fair trial in Iraq.

Mr. Blair told parliament Monday he sees no need for an international tribunal to try Saddam Hussein.

"Of course we should make sure that there is a proper and independent and fair process, but I am quite sure the Iraqis have the capability of doing that," he said. "We and other countries will work with them to make sure it is correct."

Asked if Saddam Hussein should face the death penalty, Mr. Blair said Iraqis should decide what punishment is appropriate. Britain itself outlawed capital punishment 40 years ago and has a policy of opposing executions abroad.

Before Prime Minister Blair spoke, his defense secretary, Geoff Hoon, told parliament he expects more attacks on coalition forces despite Saddam Hussein's capture.

"I think we have to recognize that there will still be some elements, not only elements from within Iraq, but others coming into the country who will continue the campaign against coalition forces," said Mr. Hoon. "They have to be defeated."

At a news conference, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he doubts Saddam Hussein will reveal any details about weapons of mass destruction, which was Britain's primary reason for going to war in Iraq.

"Frankly, I am not holding my breath for any confession statement from Saddam Hussein," said Mr. Straw. "His history of mendacity is so intense and so long-lasting that he wouldn't understand the truth if he fell over it."

In another development, Mr. Blair's human rights envoy to Iraq, Ann Clwyd, said she believes it is too late now to establish a United Nations war crimes tribunal in Iraq. But she says the Iraqi Governing Council is willing to accept international advisers for trials against accused human rights abusers.