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Saddam accuser targets foreign arms merchants

Written by: Staff
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BAGHDAD, Sep 11 (Reuters) A US-based Iraqi doctor, testifying in the genocide trial of Saddam Hussein today, demanded compensation from foreign companies she said supplied him with chemicals he is accused of using to gas Kurdish rebels.

Saddam himself used his presence in court after a three-week recess to intervene on a political issue that has set Kurds and Arabs at odds this past week, over whether the Iraqi flag should be changed because of its association with Saddam. The ousted leader defended the flag, before the judge shut his microphone.

Ms Katherine Elias Mikhail described campaigning as a socialist rebel with Kurdish peshmerga guerrillas in the late 1980s when their mountain bases were bombed from the air with weapons that choked and blinded hundreds of people, including herself.

''I am complaining against Saddam Hussein, Ali Hassan al- Majeed, known as ''Chemical Ali'', and all the international organisations or companies which provided the Iraqi regime with these weapons,'' said Mikhail, from Iraq's Christian minority, who described herself as a writer now living in Virginia.

''I demand compensation,'' she said firmly.

Challenged by Majeed, Saddam's cousin, who earned his nickname ''Chemical Ali'' from alleged poison gas attacks, she responded by expanding on a detailed account of events in 1987 and 1988 in northern Iraq, delivered in scholarly tones.

Mikhail, in her mid-50s, cut a markedly different figure, in tailored city clothes and styled hair, from fellow ''plaintiff'' witnesses who, since the trial began a month ago, have been mostly Kurdish peasants wearing traditional dress.

''I saw hundreds of people, not dozens but hundreds of people.

They were vomiting and their eyes were watering. They complained of having sore stomachs,'' she recalled of an attack by four Soviet-build Sukhoi jets on peshmerga on June 5, 1987.

She also recounted events in autumn 1988. ''Chemical weapons used to be dropped regularly. It was genocide,'' she said.

DEATH PENALTY Saddam, 69, and six of his commanders are on trial for crimes against humanity in the Anfal, or Spoils of War, campaign between February and August 1988, that prosecutors say left 182,000 Kurds, mostly civilians, dead or missing. Villages were razed to the ground and many thousands ended up in mass graves.

Saddam and Majeed also face a charge of genocide. All face the death penalty. Saddam is waiting for a verdict next month from a first trial, for crimes against humanity in the killing of some 148 Shi'ite men from the town of Dujail in the 1980s.

The Shi'ite-led coalition government is considering Kurdish demands for Iraq to have a new flag to replace the tricolour they associate with Saddam's Sunni Arab-dominated Baath party.

Saddam himself stood during the session and told the judge: ''The flag behind you, we inherited it. I did not establish it.'' The defence says the Anfal campaign targeted rebels siding with Iran towards the end of the eight-year war between Baghdad and Tehran, in which Saddam's secular state had tacit US and other Western support against the new Islamic Republic in Iran.

Fear that Saddam might use chemical weapons developed with the aid of foreign suppliers was cited by the United States to justify invading Iraq in 2003, particularly after al Qaeda's September 11 attacks on New York and Washington five years ago.

Invading US troops found little trace of banned weapons in Iraq.

And a Senate report last week found there were no clear links between Saddam and Islamist international militants.

REUTERS BDP BSD1558

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