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Bush: Iraq government "fumbled" Saddam hanging

Reuters | January 16, 2007

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush said on Tuesday the Iraqi government had "fumbled" the execution of Saddam Hussein by making it look like a revenge killing.

Bush, in an interview with Public Broadcasting System's "Newshour with Jim Lehrer," said Saddam had received justice unlike his victims, but he was disappointed in the way Iraq had carried out the hanging of the former dictator last month.

An illicit video of Shi'ite officials taunting Saddam on the gallows further inflamed sectarian passions among Iraqis and drew international criticism. Controversy flared anew over the execution on Monday of Saddam's half-brother, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, who was decapitated by the noose.

"I was pleased with the trials they got," Bush said. "I was disappointed and felt like they (Iraqi officials) fumbled the - particularly the Saddam Hussein - execution."

He said the way Saddam's hanging was carried out reinforced doubts about the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and made it harder for him to make the case to the American people to continue supporting it.

"I expressed my disappointment to Prime Minister Maliki when I talked to him the other day," Bush added.

Saddam, convicted by an Iraqi court of crimes against humanity, was executed days before Bush unveiled a revised plan for the unpopular war, including sending 21,500 more troops.

Bush said Saddam's execution sent a confusing message. "It basically says to people, look, you conducted a trial and gave Saddam justice that he didn't give to others," he said. "But then, when it came to execute him, it looked like it was kind of a revenge killing ... It just goes to show that this is a government that has still got some maturation to do."

While expressing no regrets that Saddam had been put to death, Bush had said previously the execution should have been carried out in a "more dignified way", and he welcomed Maliki's promise of a full investigation.


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