Bush says executions of Hussein, 2 others in Iraq were `fumbled'


January 17, 2007|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- President Bush said yesterday that Iraq had "fumbled" the executions of Saddam Hussein and two of his deputies, and that the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "has still got some maturation to do."

The president's remarks were the most extensive yet on the executions, and they pointed up the continued tensions between Bush and al-Maliki as they try to forge a joint plan to calm the violence gripping Iraq.

Bush expressed particular displeasure with the handling of Hussein's hanging in late December, at which guards chanted their allegiance to the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who backs al-Maliki and whose militia has been a major source of anti-Sunni violence.

"It basically says to people, `Look, you conducted a trial and gave Saddam justice that he didn't give to others,'" Bush said in an interview with Jim Lehrer of PBS. "But then when it came to execute him, it looked like it was kind of a revenge killing."

The president has said that al-Maliki has given him assurances that political considerations will not hinder Iraqi and American forces from going after the militias, including al-Sadr's.

But the notion that al-Maliki's government will crack down on al-Sadr, a course considered crucial to the success of Bush's new plan for Iraq, has been met with skepticism. And Bush said the handling of the execution only added to the questions.

"It reinforced doubts in people's minds that the Maliki government and the unity government of Iraq is a serious government," Bush said.

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