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Iraq Urges Execution Of Hussein-Era Officials

Ali Hassan al-Majeed, also known as "Chemical Ali"
BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- The Iraqi government has renewed its call for the executions of officials in the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein to go ahead despite the objections of Iraq's president and vice president.

"The cabinet appeals to the presidency council to approve the decisions issued by the Iraqi High Tribunal against criminals that were sentenced to death," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement.

Hussein's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majeed, former Defense Minister Sultan Hashem and former army commander Hussein Rashid Muhammed have all been sentenced to death for their role in the Anfal military campaign against ethnic Kurds in 1988.

Majeed has two other death sentences, one for crushing a 1991 Shi'ite revolt and another for killing and displacing Shi'ite Muslims in 1999.

Majeed's initial death sentence in 2007 was widely cheered, but Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, opposed Hashem and Muhammed's execution, arguing the military men were following orders.

That put Talabani and Hashemi at odds with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite, whose co-religionists suffered terribly under Hussein's minority Sunni Arab rule.

Although Talabani and Hashemi have no objections to the execution of Majeed, the legal wrangle has held up the execution of all three sentenced for the Anfal campaign.

They were due to have gone to the gallows within days of an Iraqi appeals court upholding their death sentences in September 2007.

Majeed earned the nickname "Chemical Ali" for his use of poison gas, and he is facing an ongoing trial for the gassing of 5,000 Kurds in the village of Halabjah in northern Iraq in March 1988. Hussein himself was executed in 2006.