Archive for Saturday, November 4, 2006

Iraq cancels leave for officers before Saddam verdict

November 4, 2006

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— Iraq canceled leave Friday for all military officers two days before an expected verdict - and possible death sentence - in the trial of Saddam Hussein. For the second time this week, a top Bush administration official huddled with the Iraqi prime minister.

Many of Saddam's fellow Sunni Arabs, along with some Shiites and Kurds, are predicting a firestorm of violence if the court sentences the ex-president to death, as is widely expected. Bloodshed is already high, with police finding the bodies of 87 torture victims throughout the capital between 6 a.m. Thursday and 6 p.m. Friday.

But most Shiites, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, are likely to be enraged if he escapes the gallows. Al-Maliki declared last month he expected "this criminal tyrant will be executed," saying that would likely break the will of Saddam's followers in the insurgency.

In a videotape Friday, Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi was heard issuing the order canceling all military leaves and ordering vacationing soldiers back to duty. The order took effect at noon Friday and was announced at a meeting among al-Maliki and senior military and security officials.

While there was no direct reference on the tape linking the cancellation of leaves with the Saddam trial verdict, there was discussion of imposing a curfew for Sunday.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, right, and U.S. national intelligence director John Negroponte, left, meet Friday in Baghdad in this image released by the Iraqi government. The man at center is an unidentified translator.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, right, and U.S. national intelligence director John Negroponte, left, meet Friday in Baghdad in this image released by the Iraqi government. The man at center is an unidentified translator.

"All vacations will be canceled and all those who are on vacation must return," al-Obeidi said.

At one point during the meeting, al-Maliki could be heard upbraiding his top military brass for failing to stop the capital's unbridled violence.

But attacks are not limited to Baghdad. South of the capital, police in Kut found 13 bodies Friday, seven pulled from the Tigris River. Elsewhere in Iraq at least nine others died violent deaths.

The U.S. military announced seven more deaths - four Marines and three soldiers killed Thursday - raising the death toll for November to 11. At least 105 U.S. forces died in October, the fourth highest monthly toll of the war.

Al-Maliki's demand for a speedier transfer of power to his military was believed to have been among issues he discussed with U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte in the heavily fortified Green Zone.

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