Saddam Could Be Tried This Year

Saddam Hussein could go on trial by the end of this year, Iraq's national security adviser said Tuesday.

"I will be surprised if I do not see Saddam in the box before the end of the year," Mouwafak al-Rubaie told reporters. "I am very much hopeful that Saddam will be in the box around September and October, before the general referendum."

Saddam was captured north of Baghdad in December 2003 and has been in custody with several of his top henchmen at a U.S.-guarded detention facility near Baghdad's international airport.

Saddam will be tried before the Iraqi Special Tribunal established in late 2003. The tribunal has given no official dates for starting trials.

Also on Tuesday, clashes erupted between U.S. troops and insurgents Tuesday in the troubled city of Ramadi, west of the capital, leaving at least two people dead, officials said.

In other developments:

  • Italy's foreign minister said Tuesday that U.S. troops killed an Italian intelligence officer by accident, but disputed Washington's version of events and demanded U.S. authorities thoroughly investigate the incident.
  • Unidentified gunmen shot dead the deputy head of Hay Alfurat Hospital in western Baghdad, officials said.
  • In Baghdad, gunmen assassinated the deputy chief of the Interior Ministry's immigration office, Gen. Ghazi Mohammed Issa, in a drive-by shooting. In an Internet statement, al Qaeda in Iraq purportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • An Interior Ministry official said gunmen attacked a convoy of trucks carrying food for the Trade Ministry in Salman Pak, southeast of the capital. Three civilians were killed in the assault and at least one of the trucks was set on fire.
  • U.S. troops killed two men overnight they identified as terrorists who launched an attack in Ad Duja, about 30 miles of the capital. Six people were detained by U.S. forces — one of the wounded attackers and five others.
  • Dutch troops ended their mission in the southern city of Samawa and turned command of the area over to the British, along with responsibility for 550 Japanese soldiers. The Dutch government last year decided to pull out its final 350 troops.

    The clashes in Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, lasted for more than an hour. City shops were closed and streets were deserted as U.S. troops took up sniper positions on rooftops. At least one dead body could be seen in the street, witnesses said.

    Dr. Salah al-Ani of Ramadi's main hospital said at least two Iraqis were killed and two others wounded.

    U.S. troops launched a clampdown in Ramadi and several other Euphrates cities on Feb. 20, imposing curfews and raiding houses in a bid to root out insurgents operating in the area.

    Tuesday's violence came a day after insurgents launched a wave of attacks Monday that killed 33 people and wounded dozens.

    The terror group Al Qaeda in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for much of Monday's bloodshed — including violence that killed 15 people in and around Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.

    Amid the violence, negotiations to form Iraq's first democratically elected government have persisted. Iraqi Kurds said they were close to a deal with the Shiite clergy-backed United Iraqi Alliance to secure many of their territorial demands and ensure the country's secular character after its National Assembly convenes March 16.

    The dominant Shiite Muslim alliance, however, said although it agreed that Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani would become Iraq's president, it was still talking about other conditions set by the Kurds for their support in the 275-member legislative body.

    The Shiite alliance controls 140 seats and need the 75 seats won by the Kurds in the Jan. 30 elections to muster the necessary two-thirds majority to elect a president and later seat their choice for prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

    An alliance official said interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, whose party won 40 seats, refused an offer for a Cabinet post. Allawi's office could not be reached for comment.