BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq (search) and Iran (search) have issued a joint statement blaming Saddam Hussein (search) and his henchmen for being the aggressors in the 1980-88 war between the two countries and Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
The statement, issued Thursday during Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi's historic trip to Iraq, comes as the Shiite Muslim (search)-dominated governments of both countries try to forge better ties following Saddam's ouster two years ago.
The former Iraqi dictator, who was captured in December 2003, is facing charges including killing rival politicians during his 30-year rule, gassing Kurds, invading Kuwait in 1990 and suppressing Kurdish and Shiite uprisings in 1991. He is in U.S. military custody with several of his former top aides awaiting trial. No trial dates have been set.
Iraqis in the new government and Iran's Shiite-led theocracy have previously blamed the former Iraqi dictator for starting the bloody eight-year war against Iran, in which 1 million people died.
But the latest statement marks the first time Iraq has joined Iran in accusing the former Iraqi president of being the aggressor in the war.
"The two sides confirm the necessity of trying the leaders of the former regime in Iraq in a fair trial because they committed war crimes and crimes against humanity and their military aggression against the Iraqi people, Iran and Kuwait," the statement said.
Iraqi and Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment Friday, a weekly religious holiday in both countries.
Iran has said previously it is considering filing a suit against Saddam for invading Iran, which says it is owed billions in war damages.
Iraq also owes billions to Kuwait for damage to oil facilities and the environment caused during Iraq's seven-month occupation of Kuwait that began August 1990 and ended with the February liberation by a U.S.-led coalition during the Gulf War (search).
Ties between Kuwait and Iraq have resumed since Saddam's fall.
During that seven-month Gulf crisis, Iraq flew 120 military and civilian planes to Iran for safekeeping. Tehran since has said it would keep the planes as compensation for war damages it sought from Iraq.
Iraq had started to pay through the United Nations (search) billions of dollars to Kuwaitis who lost possessions and relatives during the Iraqi occupation and the Gulf War.
Views among Iraqi Shiites toward Iran range from hate to devotion. Despite 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people being Shiite, many harbor resentment toward Iran over the war.
Some Iraqi Shiite leaders have previously said that their country should compensate Iran over the war, comments that have angered many Iraqis.