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THE WORLD

Bush says Hussein `was given justice'

January 05, 2007|James Gerstenzang | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Bush said Thursday that he would have preferred that the execution of Saddam Hussein had been conducted in a more "dignified" manner, but said the deposed dictator met the fate he deserved.

"He was given justice. The thousands of people he killed were not," the president said during a session with reporters after he met with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

His remarks on the hanging were the first he had made in public since Hussein was executed Saturday in Baghdad amid taunting shouts in which an observer called out the name of a militant Shiite Muslim cleric.

Soon after the execution, a video of Hussein's death, recorded on a camera phone, was posted on a number of websites.

The scene and the video have caused discomfort among Bush aides. They have tried to focus attention on the brutality of Hussein's regime, rather than on the circumstances surrounding his execution.

Public outcry about the hanging has been pronounced in Europe. Merkel, at Bush's side in the entry area of the White House State Floor, did not address the issue.

Bush said he had spoken about it earlier in the day with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, during a nearly two-hour videoconference.

Maliki told him that Iraq was investigating the execution, the president said. U.S. officials reportedly tried to persuade Iraqi officials to delay the hanging, rather than proceed with it on the first day of Sunni Muslims' observance of Eid al-Adha, the holiday marking the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

Bush said Hussein's hanging closed "a horrific chapter" in Iraq's history, adding, "We expect there to be a full investigation of what took place" in the death chamber.

The president also gave Maliki a renewed vote of confidence at a time when officials have begun to question whether he is, as Bush has said, the right person for the job.

james.gerstenzang@ latimes.com

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