BERLIN – Both American supporters and opponents of the war in Iraq stepped up pressure Monday for Saddam Hussein (search ) to be tried in his homeland, indicating the death penalty could be considered.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair's (search ) office said the Iraqi people suffered most under Saddam's rule and should be the ones to try the captured despot, rather than an international tribunal such as the U.N. court in The Hague Netherlands which has been dealing with alleged war crimes in the former Yugoslavia.
"It was people inside Iraq who were gassed. The mass graves inside of Iraq are full of Iraqis," Blair's official spokesman said, briefing reporters on customary condition of anonymity. "It is just that his fate should rest with Iraqis."
Blair has been President Bush's staunchest ally in Iraq. On Sunday he hailed news of Saddam's capture, saying it could mark the start of a new era for the country.
Blair's spokesman said Britain would have to accept a decision by Iraqis to execute their former leader, despite strong British opposition to capital punishment.
"Our position on the death penalty is that we do not support it. Were that to be the outcome, that would be something we would have to accept," he said.
Australia's Prime Minister John Howard, who sent troops to fight the war, said he supported the death penalty for Saddam. "If it were imposed, absolutely," he told Australian television's Nine Network.
U.S. officials were focusing on interrogating Saddam and said they still have not decided what to do with him. One option was to try him before a special Iraqi tribunal established just days ago.
A Shiite Muslim member of the Iraqi Governing Council, Mouwafak al-Rabii, said Saddam could be put on trial in the next few weeks and face execution if convicted.
The Arab world, which largely opposed the war, offered a more muted response. The Jordanian Bar Association said Monday that lawyers should step forward to defend Saddam.
"The Jordanian Bar Association considers President Saddam Hussein as the head of the resistance to liberate a dear part of our occupied Arab land," said the bar's president, Hussein Mejali. He urged the world, and Arab leaders in particular, to provide Saddam with "the legitimate protection he deserves as a leader of a liberation movement against occupation."
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov, whose country opposed the war, said Moscow hoped the detention would lead to stability in Iraq. He said only Iraqis could decide Saddam's fate.
"And for this, it is necessary that Iraq's sovereignty is restored and that self-sufficient and sovereign Iraqi state institutes resume work," Fedotov was quoted by the Interfax news agency.
The European Union said Saddam "should now be judged in a fair trial, according to the rule of law," the EU presidency said in a statement issued on behalf of the 15 governments.
The statement said there was "wide understanding" that trials of alleged war criminals should take place before a domestic court in the country concerned.
The Malaysian government said the Iraqi people should decide how Saddam is brought to justice on accusations of gross human rights violations.
Iraqis should "be given the right to decide on the manner and procedure of bringing Saddam Hussein to face justice," said Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, head of both the Non-Aligned Movement of 116 international law," Abdullah added.
World leaders were quick to welcome the announcement Sunday that Saddam had been caught a day earlier and without a struggle as he hid in a dirt pit in a farmyard near his hometown of Tikrit.
But they also cautioned the road to peace in Iraq still was dangerous and Saddam's capture was not likely to end the insurgency that has killed hundreds of U.S. soldiers.
An Indonesian sentenced to death in last year's Bali bombings agreed, saying Muslim militants would continue the fight against America.
"Even if 1,001 Saddam Husseins were arrested it would not weaken our struggle," Ali Ghufron shouted to reporters as he left a court on the resort island.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whose ties to America suffered deep strains because of his opposition to the military action, congratulated Bush on the capture and greeted the news "with much happiness."
"I hope that his arrest will support the efforts of the international community to rebuild and stabilize Iraq," Schroeder said Sunday in a letter to Bush.
French President Jacques Chirac, another war opponent, also hailed Saddam's capture.
"It's a major event that should strongly contribute to democracy and stability in Iraq and allow the Iraqis to master their destiny," Chirac said Sunday, according to his spokeswoman.
Saddam, 66, had been on the run since his regime was toppled by U.S.-led forces in April.
Stocks rallied across the Asia-Pacific region Monday as traders bet Saddam's capture could mark a turning point in the Iraq conflict.
In Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda agreed the arrest was "great news," but cautioned it would not necessarily lead to peace.
"The problem, however, is terrorism. I don't think the arrest of Saddam Hussein can stop all terror attacks," Fukuda said.
Reaction in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation and a fierce critic of the war, was more skeptical. "The arrest has not really changed how we feel about the situation in Iraq," Foreign Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said.