BAGHDAD — A top member of Saddam Hussein's former regime said Monday that there "was no genocide" against Iraqi Kurds and blamed Iran for an infamous 1988 poison gas attack on a Kurdish town.
Tarik Aziz, whose posts included foreign minister and deputy prime minister, told a special tribunal that Iraq did not possess the nerve agents used to kill an estimated 5,000 people in Halabja, an attack that became a worldwide symbol of the Anfal campaign against the ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq.
Aziz, appearing as a defense witness, said such chemicals were held by Iran, which battled Hussein's regime during a 1980-88 war.
"You can check with experts," he told judges overseeing the trial of six former officials charged with various crimes against humanity for the 1980s crackdown on the Kurds, which killed an estimated 100,000.
"There was no genocide against the Kurds.... Those defendants were honest officers who defended their country and fought Iran," Aziz said.
Prosecutors have read from documents showing that dozens of villages were destroyed, thousands of people displaced and children separated from their families.
They also have played an audiotape with the alleged voice of Hussein warning, "These weapons are only used at my orders," and assuring colleagues that the weapons "kill by the thousands."
Aziz also called Hussein a "hero and patriot for Iraq sovereignty." The former dictator was hanged Dec. 30 for the killing of 148 Shiite Muslims after a 1982 assassination attempt.