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Sunday, November 05, 2006

'A Good Day For Iraqis'

Updated: 15:02, Sunday November 05, 2006

The White House has greeted the verdict handed down to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said: "It's a good day for the Iraqi people."

He added: "The judiciary is operating independently and we need to give them credit for doing their job and doing it in the way they saw fit and proper."

Mr Snow said that Iraqis "are the ones who conducted the trial. The Iraqi judges are the ones who spent all the time poring over the evidence. It's important to give them credit for running their own government."

And he denied there was anything sinister in the verdict against one of the USA's biggest enemies coming in just two days before crucial midterm elections in which President Bush's Republicans are widely expected to fare poorly.

He said: "The idea is preposterous, that somehow we've been scheming and plotting with the Iraqis."

Asked if the US government hoped Saddam's death sentence would be carried out, Mr Snow said: "We don't hope. We're not rooting. We're not holding up score cards.

"We simply think it's important that you establish a rule of law where people have their rights protected, where they have rights to appeal, where they have rights to counsel but also where victims of violence have redress."

Earlier the US ambassador to Iraq said Saddam's conviction for murder and death sentence were an important step forward.

Zalmay Khalizad said: "Today is an important milestone for Iraq as the country takes another major step forward in the building of a free society based on the rule of law.

"Although the Iraqis may face difficult days in the coming weeks, closing the book on Saddam and his regime is an opportunity to unite and build a better future."

The United States twice went to war against Saddam, first in January 1991 when it led a coalition - including the UK - to throw the Iraqi dictator out of Kuwait.

Saddam was later thought to have tried to have the first President George Bush assassinated.

After a decade of sanctions and airstrikes, the US invaded Iraq in March 2003, deposing Saddam.

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