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World leaders divided on Saddam execution

[JURIST] World political and religious leaders were divided Saturday in their reaction to the execution [JURIST report] of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive; BBC obituary]. In a statement released from his ranch at Crawford, Texas, late Friday night Eastern Time US President Bush called [press release] Hussein's trial and execution "the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime" and labeled it "an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself." British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett [official profile] said [FCO statement] that Hussein and his co-defendants "have faced justice and have been held to account for their crimes. Appalling crimes were committed by Saddam Hussein's regime. It is right that those accused of such crimes against the Iraqi people should face Iraqi justice." Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja [official profile], whose country currently holds the European Union Presidency [official website], reiterated [press release] the European Union's opposition to the use of capital punishment and that doubts were expressed about the impartiality of the trial. Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi termed Hussein's execution "tragic and [a] reason for sadness" on a Vatican Radio news program. In a separate statement [AP report], Lombardi also reiterated the Catholic Church's opposition to the death penalty, saying that cannot be justified "even when the person put to death is one guilty of grave crimes."

Reaction from the Arab world to Hussein's execution was mixed, drawing surprise, anger and even silence. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi announced a three-day official mourning period and canceled all celebration of Eid, an Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, condemned the execution as a political assassination that "violated international laws." Concern that the instability in Iraq will be made worse by Hussein's execution came from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Kuwait and Iran, meanwhile, welcomed the death [AP report] of the ousted Iraqi president since he led wars against each of those countries. Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres said Hussein had brought his punishment on himself [AFP report], and another senior Israeli official quoted by AFP said simply that "justice has been done." AP has more. BBC News additional coverage.

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