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News Wrap: Former Hussein Aide Aziz Sentenced to Hanging

October 26, 2010 at 6:04 PM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Iraq’s High Tribunal today sentenced one of Saddam Hussein’s most prominent aides to death by hanging. Former Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz was convicted of crimes against humanity. We have a report narrated by Bill Neely of Independent Television News.

BILL NEELY: He followed his leader, Saddam Hussein, to the letter. Now Tariq Aziz may follow him to the gallows. He was the face of Saddam’s regime abroad, but the face was sunken as he heard his death sentence, lost for words, for once.

In office, he often saluted the telephone when Saddam rang. He was utterly loyal, his master’s mouthpiece. He was distinctive, the glasses, the Cuban cigars. He loved whiskey and grew up as Michael, a Christian, but he changed it for Saddam. He was with him from the start, defiant before the first Gulf War, defiant before the second.

He met the pope just before the bombs fell and told ITV News he would never surrender.

TARIQ AZIZ, former Iraqi deputy prime minister: Do you expect me, after all my history as a militant and as an Iraqi, one of the Iraqi leaders, to go to an American prison, to go to Guantanamo? I would prefer to die.

BILL NEELY: But he did surrender and has spent seven years in jail and on trial. He’s been sentenced to hang for persecuting Shia Muslim politicians, like the current Iraqi prime minister. His lawyer says the sentence is all about revenge.

HARI SREENIVASAN: There was no immediate word on when Aziz will be executed.

Iran has begun loading fuel into its first nuclear power plant. The announcement today involved the Bushehr nuclear reactor built by Russia and being supervised by the U.N. nuclear agency. It is expected to begin generating

electricity by mid-February. The power plant is separate from an alleged nuclear weapons program that has prompted U.N. sanctions. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said again today Iran’s efforts are entirely peaceful and determined.

RAMIN MEHMANPARAST, spokesman, Iranian Foreign Ministry (through translator): The pressures exerted against our nation politically or by using leverages of sanctions and other pressures cannot prevent our country from

progress and cannot prevent our nation from accessing its legitimate rights and peacefully benefiting from nuclear science. We will pursue our long-term programs in this field.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In New York, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. doesn’t object to the Bushehr plant.

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: I heard some of the news coverage that, you know, oh, my goodness, the Iranians are starting the reactor. That is not the issue. They are entitled to peaceful civilian nuclear power. They are not entitled to nuclear weapons.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Clinton appealed again for the Iranians to return to talks over their nuclear program.

In western Indonesia, at least 113 people were killed when an earthquake triggered a 10-foot tsunami late Monday. Dozens of people were missing. The fault that ruptured was the same one that caused the 2004 quake and tsunami that killed 230,000 people in 12 countries.

Eight hundred miles to the southeast, at least 18 people died when Indonesia’s most active volcano erupted. Hot ash spewed from Mount Merapi, and more than 11,000 villagers were urged to flee.

One of the most ferocious storms in decades blasted the U.S. Midwest today, winds gusting to 60 miles an hour. Plus, blizzards and tornado warnings stretched from the Dakotas to the Great Lakes and south to Mississippi. The wind tore away roofs from buildings in Indiana and flipped heavy trucks onto their sides.

Bad conditions also forced flight delays in Chicago and elsewhere across the region. Forecasters said the storm’s pressure reading resembled a Category 3 hurricane.

British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline will pay $750 million in a settlement with the U.S. government. Federal prosecutors charged a company plant in Puerto Rico that made medicines that were mislabeled, contaminated, too weak or too strong. They included the antidepressant Paxil. The plant has since closed.

In economic news, a monthly survey showed consumer confidence is up slightly, but there are lingering fears about jobs. And, on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained five points to close at 11169. The Nasdaq rose six points to close at 2497.

The Obama administration has launched a new initiative to prevent bullying in schools. The Education Department warned today that violations of students’ civil rights could be involved. It sent an advisory letter to school districts, colleges and universities around the country. There have been several high-profile cases lately of gay students being harassed and committing suicide.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.