U.S. still plans to prosecute Saddam as war criminal

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

WASHINGTON The United States continues to gather evidence on war crimes committed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his aides despite agreeing to consider immunity in exchange for exile.

Officials said the Bush administration has not ordered any halt to plans to capture and prosecute Saddam and his aides for war crimes in wake of any U.S.-led attack on Baghdad. They said the plans have not been disrupted by a Bush administration agreement to explore a deal for war crimes immunity for Saddam in exchange for his exile.

Arab diplomatic sources said the Bush administration has dropped it opposition to a visit by an envoy of Saddam to Cairo to discuss the exile proposal.

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"They key is getting Saddam out of power and here the situation could be fluid," an official told Middle East Newsline. "But once there's a war, all bets are off."

A report by the Congressional Research Service asserts that the administration is gathering evidence against Saddam, his sons and leading aides to the president. The report, entitled, "Iraq: U.S. Efforts to Change the Regime," said the targets include Ali Hassan Majid, charged with attacking Kurds with chemical weapons.

Majid was stopped by the United States in attempt to fly to Cairo over the weekend and meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss exile for Saddam. But diplomatic sources said Washington has reversed itself and Majid is expected to leave for Egypt on Tuesday.

The congressional report, authored by Kenneth Katzman, a specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs, listed other Iraqis as candidates for prosecution by any war crimes tribunal. They are Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan; Revolutionary Command Council vice chairman Izzat Ibrahim and Saddam's half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti.

The list also includes Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz and two other half-brothers of Saddam former intelligence chiefs Watban Tikriti and Sabawi Tikriti.

Congress has urged the White House to help establish a war crimes tribunal for Saddam. But many members of the House and Senate appear to disagree over whether to employ war to replace Saddam.

"Congress, like the administration, appears to have divergent views on the mechanisms for promoting regime change, although there appears to be widespread agreement in Congress that regime change is desirable and an appropriate U.S. policy," the congressional report said. "However, there is substantial disagreement over whether a major military offensive is the most desirable option for achieving that objective."

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