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Saddam says responsible for any Iran gas attacks

Ahmed Rasheed
Reuters
Monday, December 18, 2006

Saddam Hussein said on Monday he would take responsibility "with honor" for any attacks on Iran using conventional or chemical weapons during the 1980-1988 war but he took issue with charges he ordered attacks on Iraqis.

The former president and six others are on trial for the Anfal -- Spoils of War -- military campaign against ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq in the 1980s in which prosecutors say up to 180,000 people were killed in gas attacks and mass executions.

"In relation to Iran, if any military or civil official claims that Saddam gave orders to use either conventional or special ammunition, which as explained is chemical, I will take responsibility with honor," Saddam told the court.

But he added: "I will discuss any act committed against our people and any Iraqi citizen, whether Arab or Kurdish. I don't accept any insult to my principles or to me personally."

Lawyers for Saddam, who faces the charge of genocide, have argued that Anfal was a legitimate military operation against Kurdish militias who sided with Iran in the war.

Prosecutors produced documentary evidence on Monday in a new phase of the trial crucial to pinning down Saddam's personal responsibility. They showed documents from Iraq's military intelligence, the president's office and military commanders detailing the chain of command and orders given for the use of chemical weapons, dubbed "special ammunition".

START OF KEY PHASE OF TRIAL

The Anfal trial opened on August 21 and has heard more than 70 witnesses who described chemical air attacks, villages being burned and Kurds being rounded up and tortured.

Saddam has already been sentenced to death in a separate trial for crimes against humanity in the killing of Shi'ites, but legal analysts have said the prosecution failed to provide hard evidence to prove his criminal responsibility.

The witness phase is over, and when the trial resumed on Monday prosecutors turned to the documentary evidence.

The first document was a 1987 memo from Iraq's military intelligence seeking permission from the president's office to use mustard gas and the nerve agent sarin against Kurds.

A second document said in reply that Saddam had ordered military intelligence to study the possibility of a "sudden strike" using such weapons against Iranian and Kurdish forces.

An internal memo written by military intelligence confirmed it had received approval from the president's office for a strike using "special ammunition" and emphasized that no strike would be launched without first informing the president.

Among several more documents was one from the Army Chief of Staff reporting that an airstrike with special ammunition killed 31 Kurdish fighters and "communist agents" near Dohuk.

Saddam's co-defendant Sabir al-Douri, who was director of military intelligence, questioned the authenticity of some of the documents, arguing that any "special weapons bombing" was targeted only at Iranians who he said were operating with the help of Kurdish rebels.

He said a document prosecutors said was sent from military intelligence about the use of chemically treated bullets for AK47 rifles against Kurds was "definitely forged" since it suggested Iraq had manufactured such bullets as early as 1974.

"How do you expect that Iraq would manage to make chemical bullets in 1974? We are not the United States or France to be able to do that," Douri said.

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