US President George W Bush said Saddam Hussein's execution should have been more dignified and welcomed the Iraqi government's probe into the taunts at the former Iraqi president moments before he dropped from the gallows.
Bush spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for nearly two hours on Thursday in a conference call and voiced support for the probe, which is also pursuing how a cell phone was used to capture video of the execution. The images were leaked to the public.
"I wish - obviously - that the proceedings had gone in a more dignified way," Bush said at a White House press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Saddam was executed Saturday in Baghdad for ordering the 1982 massacre of 148 Shias in the Iraqi city of Dujail. The execution was carried out days after an Iraqi court upheld his November conviction and death sentence.
The release of the video sparked outrage among Iraq's minority Sunni Muslim population, which served as the base for Saddam's decades of rule.
Shias in the room, some believed to be prison guards, were heard shouting at Saddam as the noose was tightened around his neck. One individual told him: "Go to hell."
Although Bush said he wished the execution had gone more smoothly, he again insisted that the death penalty against Saddam was just and that the trial was fair.
"Saddam Hussein was given a trial that he was unwilling to give the thousands of people he killed," Bush said.
"A horrific chapter in Iraqi history has been closed. And now we're talking about a more hopeful chapter for the Iraqi people," Bush said.
Bush is conducting a review of his strategy in Iraq, amid concerns that the country in on the verge of a full-blown civil war and the US military death toll exceeded 3,000. Public support for the war has dwindled and helped cost Bush's centre-right Republican Party control of Congress.
The centre-left Democrats assumed congressional leadership Thursday, and Bush confirmed reports during his press conference that he will outline his new approach in a speech next week.
Bush said that during his conversation with al-Maliki, he was convinced that the prime minister was committed to progress, ending the violence and stabilising Iraq.
The White House has refused to confirm reports that Bush is considering increasing the American presence in Iraq of 140,000 troops by 20,000-40,000.