Al-Maliki Demands U.S. Release 'Chemical Ali', Two Others for Execution

An adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Sunday that the government leader is demanding the U.S. military hand over three men convicted of genocide for execution and is furious they have not done so.

American officials have said they would turn over one of the men, the Saddam Hussein henchman and cousin known as "Chemical Ali" for his part in the mass killing of Kurds in the 1980s, but that no such request had been officially made.

The U.S. has custody of Ali Hassan al-Majid, as well as the two others — Hussein Rashid Mohammed, the former deputy director of operations for the Iraqi armed forces, and former defense minister Sultan Hashim al-Taie — who were convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for their part in the Kurdish campaign.

At the center of the dispute is the decision earlier this month by the three-member presidential council to block the executions of Mohammed and al-Taie. The council, which is made up of President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and the Sunni and Shiite vice presidents, endorsed al-Majid's death sentence, but al-Maliki has refused to execute him unless the sentences of the other two are approved.

The Iraqi prime minister believes executing only al-Majid would be a sign of weakness on the part of his government, said al-Maliki's adviser Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

The adviser, who is in charge of negotiations with the American side on handing over the three men, said al-Maliki believes the executions of al-Taie and Mohammed do not need approval of the presidential council.

However, "the Americans are of the opinion that the execution should be approved first by the presidential council," the adviser added.

Al-Majid won little sympathy when his sentence was handed down, but al-Taie and Mohammed were seen by some as career soldiers who were just following orders.

Many Sunni Arabs thought al-Taie's sentence was evidence that Shiite and Kurdish officials were persecuting the nation's once-dominant minority. Saddam and many of his closest advisers were Sunnis.