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Europe

EU Urges Iraq Not to Reinstate Death Penalty

In Brussels on Monday, EU foreign ministers called on Iraq's foreign minister not to reintroduce capital punishment, which was suspended after the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

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Saddam Hussein could be executed

EU foreign ministers in Brussels called on Iraqi Foreign Minster Hoshiyar Zebari, to urge his goverment to refrain from reintroducing capital punishment, which several Iraqi politicians have called for in the face of increasing security and terrorist problems.

"Ministers have made clear their opposition to the restoration of the death penalty," read a statement released by the 25-member bloc after the meeting.

Capital punishment was suspended after the U.S.-led invasion although senior officials in Iraq have called for its reinstatement for a limited range of crimes after the amnesty period. If that occurs, former President Saddam Hussein could be executed.

Zebari said he himself had campaigned against the death penalty although he said the situation on the ground in Iraq might call for its reinstatement.

"There is a need for the new government to be more decisive and tougher in its actions to bring the security situation under control," he said. "We need a deterrence against those elements.

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Alawi had intended to travel to Brussels at the invitation of the EU's Dutch presidency. But sources in Brussels said that Alawi, who has served as head of the Iraqi interim government since June 28, was forced to cancel the trip because of the deteriorating security situation back home.

More aid requested

Even if Iraq does reinstate the death penalty, there was no talk on Monday as that being an obstacle to EU aid to the country, set to be around €200 million ($248 million) annually.

Außenminister Hoshyar Zebari in Brüssel

Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari

In Brussels, Zebari (photo) quickly asked the EU for more support.

"We have requested the support of the EU ... for more direct assistance, although we are grateful and appreciative of all the support they have offered us," he said.

He noted that the EU was already the largest donor of humanitarian aid to Iraq and asked for asked that the bloc raise its political visibility there.

"An office of the EU in Baghdad would be most welcome by the Iraqi people," he said.

The European Commission, the EU's executive, approved a plan on its medium-term relations with Iraq which is lead to a policy covering trade, aid and political and cultural relations after 2006.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot said the EU wants to send a senior delegation to meet the interim Iraqi government, likely in September.

On Tuesday, Zebari will meet with NATO ambassadors to discuss that alliance's role in helping the Iraqi armed forces.

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