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Saddam Rails Against U.S. 'Lies'

Saddam Hussein insisted again Thursday that he had been beaten by his American captors, denouncing Washington's denials as "lies" and mocking President Bush's claim that Baghdad had chemical weapons.

In courtroom turmoil, an assistant prosecutor asked to resign and the defense team threatened to leave court unless a guard was removed. The judge ordered the guard out. He also admonished Saddam's half brother, once head of Iraqi intelligence, to speed up his answers.

When the court gave the former leader an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, Saddam instead used the time to expand on earlier assertions that he had been abused in custody. He claimed that the wounds he suffered from the alleged beatings had been documented by at least two American teams.

On Wednesday Saddam told the court he'd been beaten "everywhere" on his body and insisted the marks were still there. He did not display any marks.

U.S. officials strongly denied the allegations.

The chief investigating judge in the case said he has never seen any complaints about abuse or torture from the defendants until he heard them in court reports, and defendants receive better medical care than most ordinary Iraqis, CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick reports.

In other developments:

  • Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld hinted on Thursday that the U.S. military soon will begin a modest, additional reduction in troop levels by canceling the scheduled deployment of two Army brigades. The decision would be the first Pentagon move to drop the American troop presence below the 138,000 level that had been considered a baseline prior to the temporary addition of about 20,000 troops to provide extra security during the Oct. 15 referendum and the Dec. 15 election. Rumsfeld had previously said those 20,000 would be leaving soon.
  • Dozens of Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups joined forces Thursday to reject preliminary results from parliamentary elections, and threatened to boycott the new legislature if complaints that the polls were tainted are not properly reviewed. A joint statement issued by 35 political groups that ran in last week's elections said they wanted the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq — which oversaw the ballot — disbanded and more than 1,250 complaints about fraud, ballot box stuffing and intimidation reviewed by international organizations such as the United Nations.
  • Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Polish counterpart paid their troops in Iraq surprise visits on Thursday to bring them holiday greetings. Blair flew into the southern city of Basra from Kuwait aboard a British military plane. The trip was not disclosed in advance for security reasons. The pre-Christmas visit was Blair's fourth trip to Iraq since the 2003 invasion.
  • Iraq hasn't resumed pumping oil through the northern oil export pipeline, oil officials said Thursday. Rumors Wednesday suggested Iraq had restarted the flow from Beiji refinery to the export terminal of Ceyhan, Turkey. "Reports Iraq resumes oil pumping from the north are baseless," said Shamkhi Faraj, head of Economic and Marketing Affairs at the minister's office. Faraj said officials had considered restarting pumping but problems at facilities in the north had prevented any restart.

    On Thursday, Saddam said American denials couldn't be believed, noting that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq despite Bush's pre-war claims that Saddam was harboring such weapons.

    "The White House lied when it said Iraq had chemical weapons," Saddam said. "I reported all the wounds I got to three medical committees. ... We are not lying, the White house is lying."

    The former Iraqi leader and seven co-defendants are on trial for the deaths of more than 140 Shiites after a 1982 attempt on Saddam's life in the town of Dujail, north of Baghdad.

    The first witness Thursday — speaking from behind a curtain and with his voice disguised — said he was 8 years old at the time of the killings in Dujail. He said his grandmother, father and uncles had been arrested and tortured, and that he'd never again seen his male relatives, implying they'd been killed.

    Saddam said the court should not depend on the testimony of witnesses who had not reached adulthood at the time of the alleged crime. The witness then told a defense attorney he hadn't been arrested and didn't see any dead bodies.

  • Saddam's half brother and co-defendant — Barazan Ibrahim, who was head of the Iraqi intelligence during the Dujail killings — argued with prosecutors, accusing them of belonging to the Baath Party, Saddam's former party, in an effort to discredit them in the eyes of Iraqis.

    One assistant prosecutor threatened to resign over Ibrahim's allegations, but the judge wouldn't allow it. "The biggest insult I've gotten in my life was being accused of being a member of this bloody Baath Party," the prosecutor said.

    The judge at one point told Ibrahim to speed up his answer, and Ibrahim responded: "Don't oppress me. I passed through this experience in the past. During the interrogation I used to be asked questions that need one hour to answer and they wanted a yes or no answer. When I used to answer he used to slap me in the face while my hands were tied from behind."

    Defense attorneys said one of the court guards then made threatening gestures toward Ibrahim, and said they'd walk out if the guard didn't leave. The judge had the guard removed.

    Witnesses on Wednesday graphically described how their captors administered electric shocks and used molten plastic to rip the skin off prisoners in a crackdown following the assassination attempt in Dujail.

    Saddam then grabbed center stage with claims that Americans beat and "tortured" him and other defendants while in detention.

    A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad called Saddam's allegations "completely unfounded" but said "we are prepared to investigate."

    "Beyond that, we have no interest in being a part of what are clearly courtroom antics aimed at disrupting the legal process," said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson.

    The trial's chief prosecutor, Jaafar al-Mousawi, said if authorities found evidence of abuse Saddam could be transferred to the physical custody of Iraqi troops.

    The prosecution's first witness Wednesday testified about killings and torture in Dujail. Ali Hassan Mohammed al-Haidari, who was 14 in 1982, said Saddam's regime executed seven of his brothers.

    Al-Haidari said that he and other residents from Dujail — including family members — were taken to Baghdad and thrown into a security services prison, where people from "9 to 90" were held.

    Blood poured from head wounds and skin was pale from electric shocks, he testified. Security officials would drip melted plastic hoses on detainees, only to pull it off after it cooled, tearing skin off with it, he said.

    "I cannot express all that suffering and pain we faced in the 70 days inside," he said.

    Two witnesses later testified from behind a curtain. One of them, identified only as Witness No. 2, said security officials "attached clamps to my thumbs and toes and private areas and tortured me with electricity until foam came out of my mouth."

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