Russia warns Saddam hanging would divide Iraq

Moscow warned of "catastrophic consequences" in Iraq if former president Saddam Hussein is hanged, but expressed scepticism on Sunday that the death penalty would be carried out.

If the execution took place "there would be catastrophic consequences for Iraq, which is already on the verge of breaking up", said Konstantin Kosachev, president of the parliamentary commission for foreign affairs, on Moscow Echo radio.

"It is unlikely the death penalty will be applied," he added. "It's rather a decision of moral principle".

"It is obvious that condemning him to death will only further divide Iraqi society, the Sunnis will not recognise this sentence," he said.

Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death by hanging on Sunday for ordering the massacre of 148 Shiite residents of the village of Dujail in the 1980s.

A foreign ministry spokesman in Moscow indicated that he suspected a whiff of foreign interference in Saddam's sentencing.

"The trial of a citizen of a country, whatever post he held, is an internal affair for that country and should be carried out without interference from abroad," said the spokesman, Mikhail Kamynin.

[Source: Agence France-Presse, Moscow, 05Nov06]

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