World News

Russia appeals to Iraq to not execute Aziz

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia called on Iraq on Wednesday not to carry out the death sentence on Tareq Aziz on humanitarian grounds, its foreign ministry said.

The Vatican has also appealed against the sentence which was passed by Iraq’s high tribunal on Tuesday on Aziz, once the international face of late dictator Saddam Hussein’s government and Iraq’s foreign minister. He is also a Christian.

“From a basic humanitarian point of view, it is obvious that his situation requires mercy,” the ministry said in a statement on official site, adding that Aziz, who was born in 1936, suffered from health problems and was of an advanced age.

Russia strongly opposed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

In New York, United Nations spokesman Martin Nesirky indicated the world body would also oppose the death sentence being carried out, citing a standing U.N. policy.

“The United Nations position on the death penalty is well known -- that is, that we oppose the death penalty, and certainly ... as in other cases, we would be suggesting that a death penalty should not be carried out,” Nesirky said when asked about the Aziz case.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley declined to join the call for Aziz to be spared.

“Our position is that Tareq Aziz was convicted through a legal process that is consistent with the Iraqi constitution. The final disposition of this case is up to Iraq,” he told a news briefing.

Last year, Aziz was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his part in the killings of dozens of merchants in 1992 and to a further seven years for his role in the forced displacement of Kurds from northern Iraq during Saddam’s rule.

He surrendered to invading U.S. forces in April 2003 but was handed over to Iraqi prison authorities this year.

Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman in Moscow and Patrick Worsnip at the United Nations; Editing by Doina Chiacu