Iraq likely to hang Saddam, says former envoy

Saddam Hussein is "very likely" to be hanged if found guilty of war crimes and genocide, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's former special envoy to Iraq, believes. He said he expected capital punishment to be reinstated now power has been transferred from coalition authorities, which suspended its use, to the interim government.

Saddam Hussein is "very likely" to be hanged if found guilty of war crimes and genocide, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's former special envoy to Iraq, believes. He said he expected capital punishment to be reinstated now power has been transferred from coalition authorities, which suspended its use, to the interim government.

But he said on BBC 1's Breakfast with Frost yesterday that although execution would go against British legal practice, the process by which the judgment is reached would be more important than the sentencing itself. "This is now an Iraqi trial," he said. "The important thing, internationally and indeed for Iraqis, is that this trial should be a fair one, under recognised and acceptable rules of procedure."

He refused to comment on whether the Iraq war was worthwhile or not, but Sir Jeremy was keen to stress the "opportunity" the country had to develop its own brand of democracy. The war, he said, had produced "an Iraq that is different from the Saddam era, an Iraq that is different from its region in terms of the beginnings of democracy Iraqi-style, not Western-style".

It would take time, he said, for the country to be pronounced a fully-functioning democracy, and the ability of the Iraqi authorities to hold fair elections would be crucial. "With any new democracy, you don't know it has settled in and stabilised until the second or third election. They have got to be able to change a government, not just bring one in."

Sir Jeremy also suggested that errors of judgement by the US administration had ruled out a smooth start to the transition period, with continuing violence throughout the country presenting serious problems. He hinted that the coalition had allowed itself to be misled about the size of the security challenge after the invasion.

"There were different analyses. Those making the decisions chose the wrong analysis. They were influenced by Ahmed Chalabi [the Iraqi exile], who wanted the thing to happen, and therefore wanted to make it seem more easy." Sir Jeremy said he thought British troops should leave Iraq by 2006.

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