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Most in U.S. Favor Death if Saddam Is Convicted

Most people in the United States want Saddam Hussein to hang if he's convicted at his trial, a view not shared by some longtime American allies, according to AP-Ipsos polling.

In eight other countries, where the death penalty mostly has been abolished, the poll found that people there prefer that the former Iraqi leader spend the rest of his life in prison. The countries are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, South Korea and Spain.

Similar, but less dramatic, disparities were found when U.S. attitudes were compared with the eight countries on whether Saddam is getting a fair trial and whether Iraqis are better off since he was driven from office in a U.S.-led invasion nearly three years ago.

Saddam, who was captured nine months after the invasion, and seven co-defendants are being tried on charges of carrying out torture, illegal arrests and executions. They face death by hanging if convicted.

Almost six in 10 in the U.S., 57 percent, said Saddam should be executed if he's convicted in the trial now in its fifth month in Baghdad.

"If he truly destroyed as many lives as they say he did, then he doesn't deserve to live," said Craig Larson, a military retiree who lives in Chesapeake, Va.

The death penalty has been abolished in seven of the nine countries polled. South Korea has talked about abolishing it. In the United States, where 1,012 have been executed over the past 28 years and at least 3,300 more are on death row, public support remains strong for state-sanctioned executions.

A study by Amnesty International found that more than nine of the 10 executions worldwide in 2004 were carried out in the United States, China, Iran and Vietnam.

Public support for sending Saddam to prison for life was strongest in Spain and Italy, where seven in 10 favored a life sentence over death. A similar sentiment was expressed in Germany, where residents are still sensitive to the violence of the Nazis and Adolph Hitler during World War II.

"I hope that [Saddam] will be not sentenced to death," said Giovanna Cippitello, sitting on a wall near the Pantheon in Rome, "but that he is made into a living example for other dictators around the world."

In the United States, the survey found more than one-third favoring life in prison for Saddam if he is convicted.

"I am not one for putting people to death," said Molly Gearin of Bullhead City, Ariz. "I'm not God."

The poll found 73 percent of those surveyed in the United States saying Saddam is getting a fair trial.

Many in the other countries surveyed aren't so sure. A third or less of the people in Mexico, Spain and South Korea say Saddam is getting a fair trial. Less than half in France say he is getting a fair shake.

"The trial is not fair," said Evelyne Jacotot, 56, a seller of rare stamps in Paris. "We're judging him little by little, for each act he's committed."

The polling also found that two-thirds of the people in the U.S. were convinced that Iraqis are better off now than they were under Saddam — a higher percentage than in the other countries polled.

People in Mexico, South Korea and Spain were far more inclined to say Iraqis are doing worse. In Germany and France — two countries that strongly opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq — people were about evenly divided on that question.

Residents of Britain, Italy and Canada — while not as optimistic as people in the United States — were more likely to say Iraqis are better off now than they were under Saddam than to say they are "worse off." Britain and Italy have been among the strongest allies of U.S. Iraq policy.

The AP-Ipsos Poll interviewed 1,600 people in Mexico and about 1,000 adults in each of the other eight countries. The surveys were conducted from Feb. 10-19 and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points in Mexico and 3 percentage points in the others.