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Iraqi deal in the works to suspend execution of Saddam-era officials

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Former Defense minister's execution most controversial

There is little quarrel among most Iraqis with hanging Saddam Hussein’s half-brothers, Watban Ibrahim Hassan and Sabawi Ibrahim al-Tikriti, who were considered an integral part of the regime and sentenced to death two years ago for the 1992 executions of 42 Iraqi businessmen.

Some Iraqis, as well as countries including Italy, oppose the hanging of Mr. Aziz, the international face of the former regime and the only Christian in Hussein’s cabinet, who lawmakers say is now also likely be given a stay of execution. Aziz, in his 80s and in ill health, was transferred to Iraqi custody last year. As a member of Hussein’s Revolutionary Command Council, he was sentenced to hang for his role in the regime’s brutal crackdown on Shiite opposition parties.

But it is the planned execution of former Defense minister Sultan Hashim that has threatened to widen political and sectarian rifts at a time while Iraq’s divided coalition government seems to be struggling for survival and embroiled in the decision over whether to ask US troops to stay.

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