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How Tariq Aziz's death sentence could drive a wedge into Iraqi politics

Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein's right-hand man, has been sentenced to hang in a move some see as politically motivated – and thus one that could further delay a new government.

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In this Sept. 5 photo, Tariq Aziz, former Iraqi foreign minister and deputy prime minister, speaks to the Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraqi state TV says Aziz has been sentenced to death for persecuting Shiite political parties during Saddam Hussein's regime.

Hadi Mizban/AP Photo

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Iraqis thirsting for vengeance as much as justice welcomed the death sentence Tuesday of one of Saddam Hussein’s best-known officials, Tariq Aziz.

“The men of the former regime were all criminals – they killed many Iraqis and it is about time to taste what the people were suffering,” says Kareem Ahmed Jassim, a retired government employee playing cards at a coffee shop in central Baghdad.

But some politicians condemned the sentencing of the former deputy prime minister as a politically motivated move that could drive even more of a wedge into efforts to form a new government.

The judge who handed down the sentence, Mahmoud Saleh al-Hassan, ran unsuccessfully for parliament as part of the State of Law coalition of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. A major part of the trial was related to main targets of Mr. Hussein’s campaign against Islamic parties – including the Shiite Dawa Party of Mr. Maliki.

“We believe that the sentences announced today are intended to serve the interests of nominating al-Maliki for the prime minister’s position,” says Maysoon al-Damluji from the rival Iraqya bloc, a secular coalition with strong Sunni support. She says the sentence was also aimed at diverting attention from leaked US military documents linking Maliki’s office to secret prisons and other abuses.

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