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Iraq council votes for war crimes court

A delegation to address U.N. Security Council next week

Iraqi police are manning checkpoints in Basra, southern Iraq.
Iraqi police are manning checkpoints in Basra, southern Iraq.

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SPECIAL REPORT
• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
IRAQ PARTIES
The seven main political parties represented by the new governing council:

• Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
• Iraqi National Congress
• Kurdistan Democratic Party
• Islamic Dawa Party
• Iraq Democratic Party
• Iraqi National Coalition
• Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's new governing council voted Tuesday to set up a special court with power to try ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and members of his regime for genocide and other war crimes, according to a spokesman for a former opposition group.

The council will begin looking for judges who do not have ties to the former regime, so that the court can be seated "as soon as possible," said Entifadh Qanbar, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress, one of the seven political groups represented on the council.

"The 55 who are on the [U.S.] list of the most-wanted [Iraqis] would be tried before this court for war crimes," said Qanbar, adding that others could be charged as well.

In New York, a United Nations spokesman said a delegation from the council would address the Security Council probably next Tuesday, raising some tricky diplomatic issues since six diplomats from Saddam's regime still hold Iraq's U.N. credentials and occupy the country's mission.

While the Security Council is likely to agree to let the delegation sit at the council table and address it, the United States as the sovereign or occupying power in Iraq must decide "under what banner" they will come, according to a U.N. official.

"Will they be here for the U.S. or the coalition or a delegation of the governing council of Iraq? Or will they be Iraqi delegates? The U.S. has to decide how they want to handle it," the official said.

During its third day of meetings Tuesday, the Iraqi council also discussed rules of procedure and a method for determining council leadership. Among the ideas debated were a rotating presidency and multiple presidents, but the group arrived at no conclusions.

In addition, the council created a committee to restore properties illegally seized by the Saddam regime, Qanbar said.

The 25-member council, originally planned as an advisory council, was granted more executive powers to expedite the transition of power from the U.S.-backed Coalition Provisional Authority to Iraqis. (List of members)

Other items of business will be establishing a constitution -- leading to national elections -- and appointing ministers and diplomats.

U.S. civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer told reporters Tuesday that once the constitution is approved in a referendum, elections will be held and "the coalition's job will be done. We have no desire to stay a day longer than necessary."

"The timing of how long the coalition stays here is effectively in the hands of the Iraqi people," Bremer said.

The delegation going to the United Nations next week may include Akila Al Hashami, a member of Iraq's foreign ministry, Adnan Pachachi, a former Iraqi foreign minister who now represents the Iraqi Independent Democrats, and Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, the U.N. spokesman said.

If they were to ask the U.N. General Assembly to assume Iraq's seat, a formal request would likely have to come from the U.S.-led coalition as sovereign authority in the country. That might raise problems among the assembly's 191 members.

The U.N. special representative on Iraq -- Sergio Vieira de Mello -- also is expected to address the Security Council next Tuesday.

Other developments

• Officials with the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division said Tuesday they expected to bring about 9,000 soldiers from its 1st and 2nd brigades back to the United States within two to four months. They disputed reports the troops had been told they would be in Iraq indefinitely. The division's 3rd Brigade already is returning to Fort Benning, Georgia, via Kuwait. At its peak, the 3rd Division had about 16,500 soldiers in Iraq, according to Army officials.

• Six U.S. soldiers were wounded Tuesday, one critically, in a mortar attack at an Army post in Balad, a U.S. spokesman said. In Fallujah, 3rd Division troops killed an unknown number of attackers who ambushed them with rocket-propelled grenades. No U.S. injuries were reported.

• A 3rd Division soldier was killed and six wounded Monday in the Mansur area of Baghdad when multiple rocket-propelled grenades hit a convoy, said a U.S. military spokeswoman. Eighty-one U.S. troops have died in Iraq since President Bush announced an end to major combat operations May 1, including 33 in hostile action.

• Bremer said the coalition would begin recruiting Iraqis for the country's new army next week in the cities of Mosul, Erbil, Baghdad and Basra. He said 32,000 Iraqi police are now on duty throughout the country.

• Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Monday denied a U.S. request that his government contribute nearly 17,000 troops to an Iraq stabilization force. External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha said India would deploy forces only under U.N. auspices. But he said India would provide humanitarian assistance, including a hospital in collaboration with Jordan.

• CIA Director George Tenet is scheduled to testify Wednesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he is expected to face questions about his agency's handling of President Bush's State of the Union speech. Tenet said Friday he should not have allowed a reference to a now-discredited report that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa to remain in the speech.

• Bush said Monday that he was "absolutely convinced" Saddam had developed a weapons of mass destruction program. He defended his administration, saying, "I think the intelligence I get is darn good intelligence. And the speeches I have given were backed by good intelligence." (Full story)

CNN Correspondents Rym Brahimi, Nic Robertson and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.


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