Tariq Aziz 'will not testify against Saddam'

Tariq Aziz, the international face of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime, will not testify against the former dictator, his lawyer said today.

Tariq Aziz, the international face of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime, will not testify against the former dictator, his lawyer said today.

Badee Izzat Aref also quoted Aziz denying any wrongdoing in the oil-for-food programme that allowed Iraq to sell oil to buy food and medicine for its people suffering under UN sanctions imposed in 1990.

UN officials have been accused of corruption over the programme, which started in 1996.

“I am not ready to testify against President Saddam Hussein. I will not say anything that contradicts with my conscience and honour,” said a handwritten statement by Aziz.

Aref said he met Aziz, who has been in jail since April last year, for five hours in a small room in an area near Baghdad. A member of the US military attended the meeting.

The lawyer said his driver dropped him at a checkpoint near Baghdad’s airport and he was then taken in a three-vehicle convoy in a 20-minute drive to the location where Aziz and other former Saddam officials are being held.

“He appeared in good spirits and good health,” Aref said about Aziz. He added that he did not know when Aziz would be questioned by an investigative judge.

Yesterday’s meeting came 10 days after interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said war crimes trials against Iraq’s former Baath Party leaders were about to start.

Last week, Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as Chemical Ali for his role in poison gas attacks against the Kurdish minority, and former Defence Minister General Sultan Hashim Ahmad appeared at a preliminary hearing.

Aziz was among 12 defendants, including Saddam, who appeared before the judge to hear charges against them in July.

Aziz, the only Christian in the top Baath Party leadership, was allegedly involved in several party purges in the 1970s and 80s during which an unspecified number of people died.

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