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Middle East
Aziz blames Iran for Kurd gassing
Over 5,000 Kurds were killed in the 1988 gas attack of Halabja.
Last Modified: 06 Mar 2007 07:34 GMT
Aziz's lawyers say he is very ill [AP]
Tariq Aziz, the former Iraqi deputy prime minister, has told a court that Iran, not Iraq, was to blame for a 1988 gas attack that killed thousands of Kurds.
 
Aziz, whose lawyers said is in poor health as he waits in a US military jail in Baghdad for his own trial, testified as a defence witness in the Anfal case.
Saddam's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majeed, known as "Chemical Ali", and five other former senior Baath party officials are on trial for their roles in a 1988 military campaign which prosecutors say killed up to 180,000 people, many of them gassed.
Looking tired and pausing several times to drink water, Aziz - once the public face of Saddam's regime - blamed Iran for a gas attack in the Iraqi Kurdish village of Halabja in 1988, in which 5,000 people were killed.
 
"The chemical weapons used at that time causing the death of thousands of people were made with cyanide gas and not mustard gas. Iran had this gas at this time, not Iraq," said Aziz.
 

Aziz said that two papers he obtained on the Internet while he was in office prove his claim. He said one was a report from an "Institute affiliated to US department of defence called 'Seaman' which was published in 1989".

 

He said the other was an article written by Milton Viorst for the New Yorker magazine. 

 

Aziz went on to say that meetings between the former Iraqi leadership and a Kurdish delegation that included the present Iraqi president Jalal Talabani took place in 1991.

 

According to Aziz, "the talks focused on the compensation of Kurdish war victims" and that the Halabja tragedy was not mentioned by either party. 

 
Shia uprising
 
Halabja is not part of the Anfal case, but prosecutors hope to open soon a separate trial on Halabja.
 
Aziz, who was once known for his love of fine suits, good whisky and Cuban cigars, also testified as a defence witness in the Dujail case, for which Saddam was hanged in December.
 
His lawyers have said he is suffering from diabetes and other illnesses.
 
Aziz has not been charged with any crime but prosecutors at the Iraqi high tribunal have said he will likely face charges for his role in crushing a Shia uprising after the 1991 Gulf war.
Source:
Agencies
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