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Iraq Transition

Saddam's lawyer: 'Get on with it'

A call for formal charges amid a crackdown in Baghdad

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A lawyer for Saddam Hussein urged the country's new government Wednesday to bring formal charges against the ousted Iraqi leader if it expects to put him on trial this summer.

The remarks by attorney Giovanni Di Stefano came one day after the president of Iraq's transitional government, Jalal Talabani, said he hopes to see Saddam tried within two months. (Full story)

"I ask everybody, please: Can this man be charged, so we can all get on with it?" Di Stefano told CNN Wednesday. "Iraq can move on. Saddam Hussein can move on ... It is possible for decisions to be made, and those need to be made sooner rather than later."

Saddam appeared before an Iraqi tribunal in July 2004 to hear seven preliminary charges against him.

They include: the 1990 invasion of Kuwait; the 1986-88 Anfal campaign against the Kurdish minority in northern Iraq; the crackdown against the 1991 revolts by Iraq's Kurdish and Shia populations; and the killings of political opponents in 1974 and 1983.

Several of Saddam's top lieutenants face similar preliminary charges, which Di Stefano said were only "indications of what might be."

"In any country, a police officer arrests a person on an allegation, but the charges have to be forthcoming pretty quick," he said. "And in their own statute, those should have been forthcoming within 30 days -- and that simply has not been the case."

U.S. troops captured Saddam in December 2003, eight months after his government fell. He is in the legal custody of Iraq's government but under the guard of American troops. Di Stefano said he has had access to his client "without a problem."

He said Iraqi prosecutors are currently in Tehran to seek the aid of Iranian officials in gathering evidence against Saddam, which he said suggests that Iraq's new government is "far more keen" on bringing charges related to the 1980-88 war with Iran.

In a glimpse of Saddam's possible defense, Di Stefano said forensic tests indicate the chemicals used against the Kurds in Halabja "certainly did not come from Iraq." He did not elaborate.

A massive crackdown

Approximately 100 suspected insurgents were detained overnight in raids conducted by Iraq forces, Iraqi military officials told CNN.

Checkpoints and cordons have been set up throughout the city.

Ammunition discovered included three pipe bombs and two pistols as well as a weapons cache with 20 mines and 100 blasting caps, according to the coalition press office.

Code named Operation Lightning, the crackdown is seen by U.S. and Iraqi authorities as an example of strength by the fledgling Iraqi forces, as the government begins to control its own political and military fate.

A key goal for the Bush administration is to start bringing its troops home when Iraq is ready to field a competent fighting force and government.

In Washington Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Richard Myers said Iraqis were beginning to make strides in developing a strong fighting force.

"There are currently -- some of them may have ended over the last couple of weeks -- five operations that were independent Iraqi operations, 30 that were combined with coalition forces, which is a much different mixture than we had just several months ago."

When asked if the Iraqis wrongly telegraphed the operation by announcing it in advance, Myers said that will be analyzed later.

Myers also noted that "it is our assessment" that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been wounded, but that the extent of his wounds is unknown.

Asked about how officials concluded that al-Zarqawi was injured, Myers said Web site postings reporting information about al-Zarqawi's injury are consistent with other information on those sites that the United States believes is true. (Full story)

At least 22 other people were wounded in other attacks.

In one attack, a suicide bomber struck a checkpoint area near the entrance to the main American military complex in Baghdad. 15 people were wounded, none of them coalition forces, U.S. military officials said.

The mortar strike Tuesday night injured 11 people.

Insurgents also carried out attacks in two sections of Baghdad on Wednesday, wounding six Iraqi security forces and a civilian, police told CNN.

Other developments

  • The United States, the European Union and Iraq announced an international conference on Iraq. It will be held in Brussels, Belgium, on June 22.
  • During a White House news conference Tuesday, President Bush firmly backed Iraq's fledgling government, echoing comments by his vice president that the country's insurgency will be defeated. (Full story)
  • CNN's Jane Arraf, Ryan Chilcote, Enes Dulami, Arwa Damon, Caroline Faraj, Jamie McIntyre, Kianne Sadeq and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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