Saddam confesses to crimes

Saddam Hussein has confessed to carrying out executions and should be hanged "20 times", his successor as Iraq's president said on Tuesday while confirming that he will not sign a death warrant himself.

"I met the investigator who questioned Saddam," Jalal Talabani said in an interview in Iraqiya state television late on Tuesday. "He said he had extracted important confessions from Saddam Hussein and he signed them."

Asked about the confessions, Talabani replied: "About the crimes he committed: he confessed to al-Anfal and the executions," adding that Saddam had said: "The orders were released by me."

Al Anfal was a campaign against the Kurds between 1986 and 1989 in which over 100,000 people are said to have been killed and many villages destroyed.

"Saddam deserves a death sentence 20 times a day because he tried to assassinate me 20 times," Talabani said, recalling his own days as a Kurdish rebel leader fighting the Baghdad authorities.

It was not clear what details Talabani had of a legal process that is intended to be separate from Iraqi politics, reports Reuters.

Saddam could be executed before other cases against him had been investigated.

These include the suppression of the 1991 Shia uprising and use of chemical weapons on Kurdish civilians at Halabja in 1988.

Saddam's lawyers may argue that Mr Talabani's comments were prejudicial to a fair hearing, an argument that might not sway the court but would have resonance abroad and within the country's already disaffected Sunni Arab minority, of which the former president is a member.

Sunnis, who form the core of the insurgency, are already enraged by alleged killings of Sunni civilians by the Shia-dominated security forces - a charge the government denies - and by the draft constitution which was approved last month by the Shia and Kurds over the objections of Sunni negotiators, reminds Telegraph.

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