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War Crime Trials to Begin Next Week

War crimes trials against Iraq's former Baath Party leaders will begin next week, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said Tuesday. He didn't say whether Saddam Hussein would be among them.

Many members of Iraq's former government have been in jail for over a year, and so far few have been able to meet with counsel. Saddam's Jordan-based lawyers say they have not seen the former leader, arrested a year ago Monday.

Officials had given conflicting accounts about when the trials would begin. They have also said that Saddam might not be the first to be tried.

"I can now tell you clearly and precisely that, God willing, next week the trials of the symbols of the former regime will start, one by one so that justice can take its path in Iraq," Allawi said, without specifying who would be tried.

Meanwhile, 70 political parties, including a top Sunni Muslim group that had threatened to boycott Iraq's January 30 election, have registered lists for the poll, Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission said Tuesday.

"Nine coalition lists have also been registered," commission spokesman Farid Ayar said, indicating that at least 79 blocs could contest the election.

Also on Tuesday, a senior aide to Jordanian al-Qaida ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed by Iraqi security forces, Allawi said.

Allawi, in a televised address to Iraq's National Council, said Iraqi police had killed Hassan Ibrahim Farhan and seized two of his aides, but did not say when or where.

(China Daily December 15, 2004)

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