Vol. 5 Num 926 Sat. January 06, 2007  

Saddam could have been hanged in a 'more dignified way': Bush

US President George W Bush said Saddam Hussein could have been hanged in a "more dignified way" and one his closest Arab allies said yesterday a video of Shia officials taunting him on the gallows was "barbaric."

In Bush's first comments on Saddam's unruly televised hanging, which has inflamed sectarian passions in Iraq ahead of his announcement next week of a new Iraq strategy, he said he expected the Iraqi government to conduct a full investigation but said the ousted leader was given justice.

"I wish, obviously, that the proceedings had ... gone in a more dignified way. But nevertheless, he was given justice," said Bush, who is planning to change his top military and civilian officials in Baghdad in moves that would wrap up a change of officials responsible for the war.

"We expect there to be a full investigation of what took place," Bush told reporters in the White House on Thursday.

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, one of Washington's closest allies in the Middle East, joined the growing chorus of criticism, saying pictures of the execution were "revolting and barbaric."

Violence in Iraq has heightened regional sectarian and ethnic tensions between the mainly Sunni Muslim Arab world and Shias who dominate Iraq and neighbouring, non-Arab Iran.

In an interview with Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Mubarak said the timing was "unreasonable" and that he had written to Bush asking him to postpone the execution. The Iraqi government has said the US envoy asked for a two-week delay.

Iraqi Sunni Arabs pray at the grave of hanged former president Saddam Hussein in his home village of Awja yesterday. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in an interview published Friday that the execution of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was shameful, unthinkable, and turned the ex-dictator into a martyr. PHOTO: AFP