U.S. hands over prisons and prisoners to Iraq

Wed Jul 14, 2010 3:40pm GMT

By Khalid al-Ansary

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The United States has handed over to Iraq dozens of detained former officials of Saddam Hussein's government, including one of its most public faces, ex-Foreign Minister Tareq Aziz, an official said on Wednesday.

The handover was part of a security pact signed in 2008 under which the U.S. military agreed to stop making arrests, hand over its remaining detention centres and withdraw completely from Iraq by the end of 2011.

The formal transfer of the last U.S. detention centre in Iraq -- Camp Cropper near Baghdad airport -- takes place on Thursday.

Aziz, 74, also served as deputy prime minister under Saddam. He gave himself up to U.S. troops in April 2003, two weeks after the former Iraqi leader's rule was ended by the U.S.-led invasion.

He featured prominently in Iraq's conflict with Iran from 1980 to 1988, helping to win U.S. support and to forge strong economic ties with the Soviet Union. He was also a high-profile spokesman for Saddam in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.

"Aziz was among 26 members of the past regime we received (from the United States) the day before yesterday," said Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim, the senior deputy minister in charge of Iraq's prisons.

Ibrahim said other officials from Saddam's government had been handed over previously, bringing the total to 55, but one had since been released.

About 1,600 people detained by U.S. forces and accused of fighting for Sunni Islamist insurgent groups or Shi'ite militia would be transferred to Iraqi control on Thursday when Camp Cropper was handed over, he said.   Continued...

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