[ 2007-01-10 15:10 ]
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday that the manner of
Saddam Hussein's execution was completely wrong and unacceptable - his first
public comments about the Dec. 30 hanging.
However, Blair told a London news conference he hoped disputes over
the taunting of the former Iraqi
dictator and the release of illicit video footage of the execution would not
lead people to forget the gravity of Saddam's crimes.
"The crimes that Saddam committed does not excuse the manner of his
execution, but the manner of his execution does not excuse the crimes," Blair
said, during a joint news conference with visiting Japanese Prime Minister
Saddam was executed for crimes against humanity for the killing of 148
Shiites in the town of Dujail after an assassination attempt against him there
A cellphone video of the execution leaked out shortly after the former ruler
was hanged. It showed some of those present in the execution chamber taunting
Saddam in the final moments of his life as he stood on the gallows with a noose around his neck. It also
showed the moment of his death - a scene that was left out of the official
version of the execution broadcast on Iraqi television.
Blair, President Bush's chief ally in the war in Iraq, said he hoped the
issues surrounding Saddam's execution would not "blind us to the crimes he
committed against his own people." Saddam was responsible for the "death of
hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, 1 million causalities in the Iran-Iraq
war and the use of chemical weapons against his own people, wiping out entire
villages," he said.
The British premier had faced public criticism after choosing not to
immediately comment on the execution.
Both Blair's deputy John Prescott and expected successor Treasury chief
Gordon Brown had publicly criticized the hanging, but Blair declined to answer
questions on the matter after returning from a holiday in Florida last week.