Saddam's trusted lieutenant Aziz to testify against him.

Tariq Aziz, once a key lieutenant of Iraq's ousted leader Saddam Hussein, has agreed to testify against his ex-boss at the upcoming war crimes' trial in exchange for getting the most serious charges against him dropped, according to his lawyer and US officials.

Aziz, 69-year-old former Iraqi Deputy Premier, will have the most serious charges against him dropped in return for his testimony against Saddam, who is due in a Baghdad court on Wednesday in connection with the murder of 143 people after a failed assassination attempt in 1982, 'The Sunday Telegraph' reported today, quoting his lawyer and US officials.

It was after two years of negotiations that the outline plea agreement under which Aziz will plead guilty to minor charges was reached. This will enable him to walk free almost as soon as the trials of Saddam and his co-accused are over, the report said.

Aziz's lawyer, Badie Izzat Arief, was quoted as saying that he had "given them facts, well-known facts" in more than 300 interviews with US officials.

The former No 2 official of the Saddam regime would likely be sentenced to "time served" -- about three years -- and later freed, the lawyer said.

"He told me, 'If I am released, please take me straight to the airport' and, 'When I'm free I will write a book about the whole matter'," the lawyer said. "For humanitarian reasons he should be granted a visa in Europe because he has been attacked many times by the Iraqis now ruling this country." However, a US official, the paper said, warned Aziz might change his mind despite the deal. "Things are very delicate and a plea bargain is never sealed until the witness takes the stand and delivers his side of the deal."

[Source: ZN News, London, 16Oct05]

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