Moscow blames U.S. for Aziz death sentence

MOSCOW, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- A death sentence for former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz is an effort to cover up Washington's interference in Iraqi affairs, a Russian official said.

Aziz and two other members of the former regime of Saddam Hussein were sentenced to death last week for their role in the persecution of Shiites in the 1980s. The sentence sparked international calls for leniency, though Washington said the matter was an Iraqi affair.


Konstantin Kosachev, an international affairs official in the Russian parliament, said the sentencing, which came two days after the watchdog group WikiLeaks released sensitive Iraqi documents, painted an alarming picture.

"The coincidence," he said, "is an attempt to draw the attention of the international community from the information that was published on the Internet," he was quoted by Russian's state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying.

Leonid Kalashnikov, a Communist lawmaker, said the death sentence was handed down because Aziz knew "too much about the period preceding the U.S. interfering in Iraqi affairs."

Aziz, the highest-raking Christian in the Saddam regime, is in ill health after suffering a stroke earlier this year.


Though apparently unrelated, his sentence comes as members of the Christian community became targets of Iraq's al-Qaida organization.

Iraqi militants seized the Our Lady of Deliverance church in Baghdad, a Roman Catholic facility, Sunday, taking about 120 people hostage. Iraqi anti-terror forces stormed the church Monday. Fifty-two people, including a Catholic priest, were killed in the resulting fighting.

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