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Ban lands into controversy over Saddam issue

india Updated: Jan 03, 2007 11:46 IST

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon landed himself into controversy right on his first full day in office over, what observers say, were his attempts to dilute the world body's strong stand against death penalty.

The issue came up in the context of execution of Saddam Hussein and despite repeated attempts by reporters he refused to clearly say that he is against capital punishment.

Later his spokesperson Michelle Montas faced a barrage of questions on the issue during the regular press briefing as reporters wanted to know if there was a change in the United Nations policy on the issue.

Apparently not briefed on the issue, Montas said that there was no change but did not explicitly reply to the question whether the new Secretary-General supported and opposed capital punishment.

During his first encounter with reporters, Ban balked at answering a direct question whether Saddam Hussein should have been executed.

Instead, he spoke about the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein and added it was a matter for each member State decide keeping in view all aspects of Humanitarian law.

The question came up in the context of strong opposition, openly expressed, by the outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to the death sentence and execution of Saddam Hussein.

Saddam Hussein was responsible for committing "heinous crimes" and "unspeakable atrocities" against the Iraqi people.

"We should never forget victims of his crimes," Ban said.