Saddam's Final Moments in Custody, and on Earth The chief U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad gives his account of the final hours of Saddam Hussein, saying the United States would have "done things differently" had Saddam been in American custody for his hanging. Iraqi officials have vowed to arrest those involved in taunting Saddam and filming the execution on their mobile telephones.

Saddam's Final Moments in Custody, and on Earth

Saddam's Final Moments in Custody, and on Earth

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The chief U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad gives his account of the final hours of Saddam Hussein, saying the United States would have "done things differently" had Saddam been in American custody for his hanging. Iraqi officials have vowed to arrest those involved in taunting Saddam and filming the execution on their mobile telephones.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The U.S. military has distanced itself from the people who taunted Saddam Hussein at his execution. He was in the custody of the U.S. military for more than three years but the U.S. says it had nothing to do with Saddam's final moments.

NPR's Jaime Tarabay reports from Baghdad.

JAIME TARABAY: During his news conference today, U.S. military spokesman Major General William Caldwell wouldn't betray his feelings or reaction to the secretly filmed scenes that accompanied Saddam's execution. He would only say repeatedly that had the U.S. military been in charge of the hanging it would have done things differently.

Major General WILLIAM CALDWELL (Major General, U.S. Army): We have only had physical control. All we did was return physical control of him back to the Iraqis, who have always had the legal custody of him. And then at that point, it's a sovereign nation. It's their system. They make those decisions. That's not something we're involved in.

TARABAY: U.S. embassy officials in Baghdad have been told not to speak to reporters on the subject while a State Department spokesman in Washington would say only that the embassy raised concerns over the timing of the execution.

Caldwell says U.S. military police flew Saddam by helicopter to the execution site but didn't enter the chamber. He said once the papers were signed and Saddam placed in a holding cell, the troops left. The transfer occurred less than half an hour before the execution took place.

Caldwell acknowledged the outrage the video has provoked among Iraq's Sunnis, prominent under Saddam but now largely sidelined under the Shiite-dominated government. He urged Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to reach out to Sunnis and try again to bring them back into the political process.

Major General CALDWELL: I mean it's a real critical juncture that has an opportunity if they want to take advantage of it that's out there that they can look at.

TARABAY: Iraq's Sunnis continue to travel to Saddam's birthplace at Alja (ph), north of Baghdad, to pay homage at the ousted leader's grave. Tribal leaders dressed in traditional Arab robes came from around the country to show their respects. Gathered at a funeral tent, many shouted anti-Shiite slogans.

Iraqi officials say the execution of two of Saddam's co-defendants will go ahead at dawn tomorrow. Saddam's half brother Barzan Ibrahim (ph) and Awad al-Bandar, the former head of the Revolutionary Court, were convicted along with Saddam for the murder of 148 Shiite villagers from the town of Dujail after a failed attempt to assassinate Saddam there. The hangings of Barzan and Bandar were delayed until after the Muslim holiday, Eid-Al-Adha.

An Interior Ministry official insists that this time there will be no video, legal or otherwise.

Jaime Tarabay, NPR News, Baghdad.

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