Originally created 12/15/03

World leaders urge fair trial for Saddam



BERLIN -- As the joy over Saddam Hussein's capture settled, world leaders on Monday said they hoped the arrest would lead to stability in Iraq and called for a fair trial for the deposed Iraqi leader. Australia's leader said he would support the death penalty.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov said Moscow hoped Saddam's arrest will lead to stability in Iraq but cautioned that only the Iraqis can decide what to do with him.

"Only the Iraqi people may resolve the fate of their former leaders," the Interfax news agency quoted Fedotov as saying. "And for this, it is necessary that Iraq's sovereignty is restored and that self-sufficient and sovereign Iraqi state institutes resume work."

Russia, which was a strong critic of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, welcomed Saddam's arrest, but emphasized that it attributed primarily "symbolic meaning" to his capture since Saddam's government had already long ago been routed by U.S. forces.

The European Union, which welcomed Saddam's capture as "a crucial further step toward peace, stability, and democracy in Iraq and in the region," also stressed the need to transfer power quickly to a transitional Iraqi government.

Saddam "should now be judged in a fair trial, according to the rule of law," the EU presidency said in a statement issued on behalf of the 15 governments.

U.S. officials were focusing on interrogating Saddam and said they still haven't decided on what to do with him in the future, but one option was to put him before a special Iraqi tribunal established just days ago.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also said any trial in Iraq would have to be "both fair and be seen to be fair."

He added there was "wide understanding" that trials of alleged war criminals should take place before a domestic court in the country concerned, rather than in front of an international tribunal, unless the former course of action was inappropriate or impossible.

U.S. allies and opponents of the war in Iraq were quick to welcome the announcement Sunday that Saddam was apprehended the day before without a struggle in a dirt pit in a farmyard near his hometown of Tikrit.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whose ties to America suffered strain because of his opposition to the military action, congratulated Bush on the capture and said he greeted the news "with much happiness."

"I congratulate you on this successful action," Schroeder said Sunday in a letter to Bush. "I hope that his arrest will support the efforts of the international community to rebuild and stabilize Iraq."

French President Jacques Chirac, another firm opponent of the U.S.-led invasion, said the former dictator's capture was "a major event that should strongly contribute to democracy and stability in Iraq," according to his spokeswoman, Catherine Colonna.

Saddam, 66, had been on the run since his regime was toppled by U.S.-led forces in April. His arrest came in an operation by U.S. soldiers on Saturday.

Stocks rallied across the Asia-Pacific region Monday as traders bet Saddam's capture could mark a turning point in the Iraq conflict.

In Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda agreed the arrest was "great news," but cautioned it would not necessarily lead to peace.

"The problem, however, is terrorism. I don't think the arrest of Saddam Hussein can stop all terror attacks," Fukuda said.

Reaction in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation and a fierce critic of the war, was more skeptical. "The arrest has not really changed how we feel about the situation in Iraq," Foreign Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said.

Muslim leaders said they didn't believe the capture would mean an end to attacks on U.S. troops.

"The capture of Saddam will not stop or even diminish the pattern of attacks against Americans," said Syafii Maarif, the leader of Indonesia's second largest Muslim organization Muhammadyah.

Across the Arab world, many expressed joy that Saddam would never return to rule Iraq. But others were disappointed that he was captured by Americans and saw his surrender as a stain on Arab honor.

"What the Americans are doing in Iraq and everywhere else is humiliating," said Samer Saado, a flower-shop employee in Damascus, Syria. "There's nothing to say we're not next in line."

Saudi Arabian student Rasheed al-Osaimi, 22, said he was happy for the Iraqi people.

"Saddam should not be spared, he should get the death penalty, which is the least he deserves," he said.

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that Saddam's capture could help stabilize Iraq and "offers an opportunity to give fresh impetus to the search for peace and stability in Iraq, on the basis of an inclusive and fully transparent process."