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Iraqi President Will Not Sign Aziz Execution Order

Tariq Aziz, former Iraqi foreign minister and deputy prime minister speaks to the Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq (File Photo - 05 Sep 2010)

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani says he will not sign an execution order for former foreign minister Tariq Aziz.

In an interview with a French television station, Mr. Talabani said he sympathizes with Aziz, who was one of the most prominent figures of late dictator Saddam Hussein's regime.

The Iraqi president said he feels for the 74-year-old Aziz because of his age, and "because he is an Iraqi Christian."

Iraq's top criminal court last month sentenced Aziz to die by hanging for his role in the persecution of Shi'ite political parties in Iraq.

Aziz was charged with helping to kill, imprison or exile leaders of the Islamic Dawa party of current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The United Nations, the European Union and the Vatican had all called for clemency for Aziz.

Russia and Greece also urged Iraq last month not to carry out the death sentence.

Aziz is already serving a 15-year prison sentence for the execution of 42 merchants in 1992. He was sentence to another seven years for the forced displacement of Kurds in northern Iraq.

Aziz has said he is guilty of nothing more than being a loyalist and that he personally committed no crime. He surrendered to U.S. troops in 2003.

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