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Subdued Saddam Calls For Forgiveness

A somber Saddam Hussein called Tuesday for national reconciliation as he returned to court for his genocide trial, two days after another panel sentenced him to hang for crimes against humanity.

During the afternoon court session, Saddam cited references to the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus who had asked for forgiveness for those who opposed them.

"I call on all Iraqis, Arabs and Kurds, to forgive, reconcile and shake hands," Saddam said before the session was adjourned until Wednesday.

As Tuesday's session began, Saddam, smiling faintly and dressed in a black suit with white shirt, found his way quietly to his seat among the other six defendants charged in the Operation Anfal crackdown against Iraqi Kurds in the late 1980s.

Saddam showed none of the bravado of two days ago, when he shouted "Long live the people and death to their enemies" as another court sentenced him to the gallows.

However, on Tuesday he quietly complained to the judge that the witnesses were not giving testimony that implicated any of the seven defendants.

On Sunday, another five-judge panel convicted Saddam in the deaths of nearly 150 Shiite Muslims following a 1982 assassination attempt against him in the town of Dujail in 1982.

He and two others were sentenced to death by hanging. Four co-defendants received lesser sentences and one was acquitted.

The Anfal trial will continue while an appeal in the Dujail case is under way. The prosecution says about 180,000 Kurds, most of them civilians, were killed in the crackdown in 1987-88.

On Tuesday, the first witness, Qahar Khalil Mohammed, told the court that he and other men from his village surrendered to Iraqi soldiers after being promised that Saddam had issued an amnesty for them.

Instead, the 33 men were lined up at the bottom of a hill and soldiers opened fire on them.

"When they fired in our direction, we all fell to the ground," he said.

Mohammed said he was wounded but survived.

"When I went back, I saw my father and two brothers had been killed, as well as 18 of my relatives," he testified. He said an Iraqi medical officer used a broken bottle to clean his wound.

On Monday, the chief prosecutor in the Dujail case said a nine-judge appeals panel was expected to rule on Saddam's guilty verdict and death sentence by the middle of January. That could set in motion a possible execution by mid-February.

Meanwhile, in Tehran, the Iranian government called Tuesday for the death sentence on Saddam to be carried out, saying the former Iraqi dictator was a criminal who deserved to die.

"We hope the fair, correct and legal verdict against this criminal... is enforced," government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told a news conference.

Iran and Iraq waged a bitter eight-year war after Saddam invaded the country in 1980.

In other developments:

  • Iraq's Interior Ministry has charged 57 employees, including a police general, with human rights abuses over the alleged torture of hundreds of detainees at a prison in eastern Baghdad, a ministry spokesman said Tuesday. Police Brig. Abdel-Karim Khalaf said the charges marked the first time officers in Iraq's post-occupation police force had been charged with the crime of torture. CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick reports that the Iraqis plan eventually to retrain all of their police batallions.
  • Baghdad's international airport reopened on Tuesday after a two-day curfew over the capital was lifted, airport spokesman Ahmed al-Mussawi said. The curfew, which took effect Saturday night in Baghdad and two neighboring provinces, largely prevented major violence following Sunday's sentencing of former dictator Saddam Hussein to death by hanging for crimes against humanity. Authorities lifted a ban on pedestrian traffic on Monday afternoon and raised a ban on automobiles Tuesday morning. Despite the added security, police did discover Fifty-nine bodies Sunday and Monday around Baghdad, thought to be victims of the sectarian violence plaguing Iraq.
  • A Marine pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice before testifying that his squad executed a civilian he thought was an insurgent. Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson, 23, was the third serviceman to plead guilty to reduced charges in return for his testimony in the case in which seven Camp Pendleton-based Marines and a Navy corpsman were charged with killing 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad in the Iraqi village of Hamdania.
  • Iraq's Shiite-dominated government offered a major concession to Saddam's Sunni backers that could see thousands of members of the ousted dictator's Baath party reinstated in their jobs. With a tight curfew holding down violence after Saddam's guilty verdict and death sentence, the government on Monday reached out to disaffected Sunnis in hopes of enticing them away from the insurgency, which has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and is responsible for the vast majority of U.S. casualties.
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