Bush: Saddam execution 'important milestone'

United States President George Bush said on Friday the execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was an important milestone on the country’s path to democracy.

“Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq’s course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself,” Bush said in a statement from his Texas ranch.

Saddam was found guilty on November 5 in the killing, torture and other crimes against the Shi’ite population of the town of Dujail after Dawa militants tried to assassinate him there in 1982.

An Iraqi appeals court upheld the verdict and death sentence this week.

“Many difficult choices and further sacrifices lie ahead,” Bush said. “Yet the safety and security of the American people require that we not relent in ensuring that Iraq’s young democracy continues to progress.”

A US-led coalition of forces toppled Saddam’s regime in 2003, arguing that Iraq posed a threat because it had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. None have been found.

Since then, almost 3 000 US troops have died in Iraq and Bush recently acknowledged in a newspaper interview that the United States was not winning the war.
US forces are on alert for any escalation of violence among Saddam’s Sunni minority.

Bush has spent part of his time in Texas consulting with senior military and diplomatic advisers on a new plan for the war in Iraq. Earlier on Friday, he spoke with his closest ally in the war, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain.

Bush was informed by national security adviser Stephen Hadley around 12.15am GMT) that the execution would take place in a few hours and was asleep when it occurred, said White House spokesperson Scott Stanzel.

“The president concluded his day knowing that the final phase of bringing Saddam Hussein to justice was under way,” Stanzel said. - Reuters

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