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Iraqi President Distances Himself From Hussein Execution

President Jalal Talabani (file photo) (epa) January 3, 2007 -- Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has said that Saddam Hussein's December 30 execution did not need his approval and that he did not know when it was to take place.

Talabani's office released a statement on January 2 saying the president opposes the death penalty, but cannot interfere with the independence of the judiciary.

A spokesman for the U.S. military said today it had nothing to do with the hanging of Hussein. Major General William Caldwell told reporters in Baghdad that the U.S. military simply provided security during the transfer of Hussein into the custody of Iraqi authorities.

He said U.S. military personnel who accompanied Hussein said he acted in a "dignified" manner during the handover procedure.

Talabani's statement comes as Iraq's government investigates the filming by mobile-phone camera of Hussein's execution, in which the former dictator was taunted moments before being hanged.

One of Hussein's lawyers, Emmanuel Ludot, today urged the United Nations to open an inquiry into the execution, saying the conditions under which it was held were "unacceptable on matters of principle."

Meanwhile, the new UN secretary-general said on January 2 that the issue of capital punishment is for each member state to decide, adding that he personally was against "impunity."

Ban Ki-moon was asked by reporters for his view on Hussein's execution. He said the former Iraqi president was responsible for committing "heinous crimes and unspeakable atrocities." The UN charter opposes the death penalty.

Hundreds of people in Tunisia and Yemen today joined Iraqi Sunnis who have been protesting over Hussein's execution.

(compiled from agency reports)

Saddam Hussein: Looking Back

Saddam Hussein: Looking Back
A DICTATOR'S LIFE: A photo gallery of images from the life of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

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