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Iraq Transition

Hunger-strike Hussein in hospital

Saddam Hussein pictured during his trial at a court in Baghdad


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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein has been taken to the hospital after suffering from the effects of a hunger strike, launched in protest of his ongoing trial, the chief prosecutor in his trial said.

U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Keir-Kevin Curry said the 69-year-old Hussein voluntarily received nutrition through a feeding tube, and continues to be monitored. He is continuing his hunger strike and his life is not in danger, Curry said.

After hearing the report, Hussein's defense attorney Mohamed Moneib questioned whether the hunger strike was to blame, saying Hussein was in "very, very good health" on Saturday during a three-hour meeting in Baghdad.

"He discussed a lot of issues with us, pitched ideas and even discussed the Israeli aggression on Lebanon," Moneib said. "There was no indication that he is ill or suffered of poor health."

Hussein and three other defendants have been refusing food since the beginning of the month to protest the proceedings and to push for better security for defense lawyers, three of whom have been killed since the trial began in October.

Though a military spokesman said Hussein has been drinking coffee with sugar and water with nutrients, the former Iraqi leader has refused all meals since July 7.

Hussein's refusal to eat marks the third time he has gone on a hunger strike since last October, when the trial began.

Curry said the hunger strikers are monitored regularly and evaluated daily.

Moneib told CNN that Hussein's hospitalization was a dangerous development, voicing his concern that it might be an attempt by the Iraqi High Tribunal to keep the former Iraqi leader away from the trial proceedings.

Shortly after their clients began their hunger strike, the defense team submitted a list of demands to the Iraqi High Tribunal on July 8, including an unlimited number of defense lawyers to present closing arguments and unlimited time to speak without interruption, no matter what they are talking about.

Iraqi High Tribunal's Raed Juhi said he responded to the demands on July 10, saying the court follows procedural laws that allot time for attorneys to speak, but limits their comments to case and defense-related arguments.

But Moneib said the court ignored their list of demands, prompting the entire defense team to resume its boycott of the trial, scheduled to resume Monday.

"Our defense (closing arguments) is ready and we are ready to attend at any moment as soon as our legal demands are fulfilled," Moneib said.

"The minimum we would accept is allowing the defense to present all that we have without interruptions and time limits -- this should apply to the lawyers and the clients."

Hussein is being tried on charges related to the killings of more than 140 males in the town of Dujail in 1982 after a failed assassination attempt against him.

Latest violence

Meanwhile on Sunday, at least 50 people were killed and 165 wounded when two car bombers targeted a Kirkuk city courthouse and a busy Baghdad market.

The first suicide car bomb exploded at 9 a.m., ripping open a packed open-air market in the Sadr City section of eastern Baghdad, Baghdad police said; 32 were killed and 65 were wounded.

The suicide bomber was driving a minibus and detonated the bomb after picking up commuters at the entrance of the market in the densely populated Shiite neighborhood, said an Iraqi who saw the bomb. The explosion was so powerful the witness said he was blown backwards from 150 meters away.

Video from the scene show survivors rushing the wounded out of the blast site while some lingered, crying over pools of blood in the street. The footage also showed several cars, trucks and vans destroyed in the blast, many of them sprayed with shrapnel.

The second car bomb exploded near the courthouse in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, killing at least 18 people and wounding 100, Kirkuk police said.

The blast ignited an intense fire that hampered rescue efforts.

South of the capital, U.S. soldiers killed 15 "terrorists" in a three-hour firefight in Babil province, the U.S. military said.

An Iraqi soldier was also killed in the fighting, which began in Musayyib.

Meanwhile the U.S. military said Saturday an American soldier was killed when his convoy was hit by a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad.

Another soldier died from a "non-combat related injury" Thursday and military investigators are looking into the incident, the U.S. military said Saturday.
Iraqis inspect wrecked car at site of explosion in Sadr City.

The number of U.S. military fatalities in the Iraq war now stands at 2,560.

PM: Lebanon issue 'dangerous'

Also Saturday Iraq's prime minister, whose country is mired in Sunni-Shiite sectarian fighting and a relentless insurgent violence, said he wanted to put another conflict on his busy agenda next week when he meets with the Bush administration and other officials -- Lebanon.

Nuri al-Maliki -- who spoke to reporters in a press conference after the first meeting of the Higher Commission for Dialogue and National Reconciliation -- said he would discuss the conflict with the United Nations and the U.S. government during his trip.

Al-Maliki said he would urge the speeding up of a cease-fire and the implementation of International resolutions.

"We have a new and dangerous issue: the military and security situation that came as a result of the Israeli attacks and raids on Lebanon and the destruction of infrastructure and the bombing of water, electricity and airports and what the Lebanese people are living and how it could affect the situation in the region," al-Maliki said.

Al-Maliki, noting that the trip had been planned for some time, said the Iraqi delegation would be focused on the importance of building of Iraqi security forces and security that "would lead to reconstruction, rebuilding and services."

But al-Maliki's comments on Lebanon reflect the political complexities and priorities in the region.

Al-Maliki's government is an ally of the United States and relies on U.S. security for its existence.

However, his words on the conflict in Lebanon are at odds with the Bush administration's support of Israel's fight against the Hezbollah guerrilla network in Lebanon.

Al-Maliki, a Shiite who had been in exile in Syria during the Saddam Hussein era, represents a government dominated by Shiites, who number 60 percent of Iraqis.

Hezbollah is a Shiite Muslim movement and it has support across the Shiite world, including the huge Shiite population in Iraq.

Some Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, have questioned the wisdom of Hezbollah's raid into Israel that sparked the Israeli offensive in Lebanon. They are largely Sunni nations.

But al-Maliki joins other leaders across the Muslim world -- both Shiite and Sunni -- who have solely laid the blame on Israel in the conflict.

Also Saturday, around 2,000 demonstrators marched from Sadr City to a square near the headquarters of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite group, to protest "Israeli acts of terror on the Lebanese people" and to express solidarity with the Lebanese people.

CNN's Nicky Robertson, Jomana Karadsheh and Arwa Damon contributed to this report.

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