Former Saddam confidant says he'll likely die in prison, citing old age and long sentences

BAGHDAD (AP) — The man who once served as the international face of Saddam Hussein's regime predicted Sunday that he will die in an Iraqi jail, citing his old age and lengthy prison sentence.

During a brief interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, Tariq Aziz said that considering he is 74 and faces more than two decades in prison for crimes related to his role in the former regime, he expects to die behind bars.

"I have no future. I have no future. I'm 74 years old now," said Aziz. "So I have no future."

Aziz served for years as Saddam Hussein's foreign minister, establishing an international reputation as a vociferous defender of the late dictator's regime who was received by governments around the world. But his years in prison, repeated court cases and illness have left him frail, hobbling on a cane.

Aziz surrendered to U.S. forces about a month after the war started in March 2003, and was held at an American prison in Baghdad until the U.S. handed over control of the facility this July to the Iraqi government. Aziz was handed over as well.

In the interview at the Iraqi High Tribunal, Aziz declined to talk about such topics as politics, the U.S. troop withdrawal or his treatment at the hands of Iraqi officials.

The English-speaking Aziz, who was a rare Christian in Saddam's inner circle, has been convicted in two cases stemming from the Saddam-era.

Last year, he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years for his role in the 1992 execution of 42 merchants found guilty of profiteering. He also received a seven-year prison sentence for a case involving the forced displacement of Kurds in northern Iraq.

Aziz is currently on trial in a long-running case in which he is accused of being part of a campaign targeting members of the Shiite Dawa Party, of which Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a member.

When Aziz was transferred from U.S. to Iraqi custody in July, his family said they were worried about his health in the Iraqi-run Karkh prison where he is currently housed. Aziz has suffered several strokes, and during recent court appearances has shuffled to and fro in the courtroom with the aid of a cane.

"I'm sick and tired but I wish Iraq and Iraqis well," he said.

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Associated Press writers Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad and Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.