Jordanians Question Timing of Saddam Execution

Host Debbie Elliott speaks with Ayman Safadi, editor of Jordan's independent daily called Al-Ghad. He says there is widespread criticism over the timing of Saddam Hussein's execution, occurring less than a day before Muslims celebrate the Eid holiday.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

And now for a reaction from the Arab world to the execution of Saddam Hussein, we go to Jordan and Ayman Safadi. He's editor of an independent daily called Al-Ghad.

Mr. Safadi, what has been the response thus far from Arab governments?

Mr. AYMAN SAFADI (Editor, Al-Ghad): Well, only a few governments have issued official reaction. The Jordanian government issued a statement basically saying it hopes the execution will not have repercussions that will further complicate the security situation in Iraq. They urged all Iraqis to kind of put the past together and work together to build a safer and more democratic Iraq.

Saudi Arabia had an interesting reaction through its news agency. It said it was bewildered that the execution took place on these holidays and it expressed shock that the execution took place. That from the government.

On the popular level, the reaction is quite different. It's quite vocal in opposing the decision and believing that it was one that was prompted by the U.S. and by Iran and not by the interest of the Iraqi people.

ELLIOTT: So you mention the fact that this is a Muslim holiday and a holy day. What is the symbolism of having Saddam executed on this day?

Mr. SAFADI: A lot of people here will see this as very bad taste. This is the first day of Eid al-Adha, a religious day, a day for prayer, a day of forgiveness. So to go ahead and do this execution on this day was a message that people saw as one of revenge, as one of political manipulation by the U.S. and by Iran. And I think this only contributed to strengthening image of Saddam Hussein. Saddam has been trying to improve his image, to present himself to the Arab public opinion as someone who stood up for their causes, and I think the decision to execute him particularly on this day, on this holiday, could have helped him go down in history as a martyr in the eyes of many people.

We are already hearing of calls by professional unions or political parties for public protests against the decision on Monday. In Jordan, for instance, the professional unions, which are very powerful and popular organizations, are holding a sit-in.

Libya has pronounced three days of mourning. So you do have a reaction. I think we'll be seeing more of that as life gets back to normalcy after the Eid holidays.

ELLIOTT: You know, Jordan is one of the places where you have seen a huge influx of Iraqis fleeing the violence in their country. Have you heard any reaction from the large exile community there?

Mr. SAFADI: The thing here is that people believe, even those who oppose Saddam, believe that Saddam was politically dead for all practical purposes. His dictatorship ended and he has no powers to influence the course of events in Iraq, so his life was a tragedy for Iraq; his death should not also have been allowed to have this impact. There's an opinion, a strong opinion that questions the credibility of the court, and I think even though the opponents of Saddam would have preferred to see a more independent court trying him in better times for Iraq when we have more independence for the Iraqi government, where you have less violence, and then executing Saddam would have been a message that justice did prevail at the end rather than as it's being perceived now by many that this is just an action that was undertaken to help President Bush and was inspired by the Iranians.

ELLIOTT: Ayman Safadi is editor of the Al-Ghad newspaper. We reached him in Amman, Jordan.

Thank you for speaking with us.

Mr. SAFADI: Thank you. My pleasure. Thank you.

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