[ 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 thetauntingof 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 Shinzo Abe.
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 in 1982.
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 thegallowswith 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.