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In video, a tired Hussein faces probe

Tribunal seeks details of Shi'ite massacre

BAGHDAD -- The tribunal that will put Saddam Hussein on trial released a video yesterday showing the 68-year-old former dictator being questioned about the execution of at least 50 Shi'ite men after a failed assassination attempt against him in 1982.

The video, which was not accompanied by any audio, was made Sunday and released yesterday by the Iraqi Special Tribunal.

Unlike Hussein's combative appearance at his arraignment on July 1, 2004 -- the last time he was seen on video -- the new tape shows a man appearing drawn and tired.

Heavy bags are under his eyes. He often clasps his hands and squeezes his fingers -- often clutching them together when making a point. His hair appears unkempt, and he constantly runs his hand down his face and through his beard.

The massacre at Dujail, 50 miles north of Baghdad, is among 14 charges the tribunal has said it would bring against the former dictator. Others include killing rival politicians over 30 years, gassing Kurds in the northern town of Halabja in 1988, invading Kuwait in 1990, and suppressing Kurdish and Shi'ite uprisings.

In other developments yesterday:

Iraqi insurgents, many of whom are believed to be Hussein loyalists, launched four suicide car bombings and other attacks across the country that killed at least 14 people.

Twenty-two more Iraqis were wounded after militants opened fire on authorities trying to evacuate the injured from one of the suicide blasts in the northern city of Samara.

A car bomb exploded several hundred yards from an armed convoy carrying a US diplomat in Baghdad, but the official was unhurt, the embassy said.

The Iraqi Special Tribunal is believed to have issued the video to show that it is in control of the Hussein trial proceedings and to counter widespread beliefs that they were being directed by Shi'ites and Kurds, who dominate the government and the 275-member National Assembly.

Iraq's Kurdish president and the Shi'ite-led government said last week that the ousted leader could appear before the tribunal within two months. They later backtracked after complaints from Hussein's legal team and the tribunal, which said no trial date has been set.

The video shows Hussein wearing a dark gray suit and white open-collared shirt being questioned by chief trial Judge Raid Juhi. Hussein's chief Iraqi lawyer, Khalil al-Duleimi, is sitting to his right. Four other defendants, all members of Hussein's administration, also are shown.

Last month, British and US tabloid newspapers obtained and published several still photographs of Hussein, including one showing him in his underwear.

Earlier this month, Juhi said in an interview that Hussein's morale had collapsed because of the charges he faces.

''The ousted president has suffered a collapse in his morale because he understands the extent of the charges against him and because he's certain that he will stand trial before an impartial court," Juhi was quoted as saying by the London-based Asharq al-Awsat.

In Amman, Hussein's lawyer said his Jordan-based legal team was not aware that the fallen dictator was questioned. But Ziad al-Khasawneh said the fact it was videotaped and released ''shows the kind of justice which the president is expected to endure during the upcoming trial."

Relations soured further yesterday between the majority Shi'ites, who dominate the government and parliament, and the Sunni Arabs, whom many hold responsible for the insurgency.

Strong disagreements broke out over the number of representatives the once-powerful Sunni minority will have on a committee drafting the country's constitution. Shi'ite lawmakers rejected calls for increasing Sunni representatives from 15 to 25 on the 55-member drafting committee. Sunnis renewed threats to boycott and sink the charter.

Limited or no Sunni participation on the committee would rob the charter of its legitimacy. When the draft is put to a nationwide referendum, it is expected that at least three of the four predominantly Sunni Arab provinces in Iraq would vote against it, causing the measure to fail and parliament to dissolve.

Also yesterday, radical anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr met with the Russian ambassador and tribal chiefs from Fallujah and Ramadi.

The meeting between Sadr and Russian Ambassador Vladimir Chamov in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf, south of the capital, seemed to be a sign of the cleric's desire to return to active politics after going into isolation last fall following clashes between his militia and US troops. Sadr has been trying to mediate between an influential Sunni association and a Shi'ite militia that have traded accusations of targeting each other's supporters and clerics.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States did not ask the Russians to take any message to the meeting, noting that the United States wants to bring all Iraqis who have renounced violence into the peace process.

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