BAGHDAD, Jan 5: US President George W. Bush said Saddam Hussein could have been hanged in a “more dignified way” and one his closest Arab allies said on Friday a video of Shia officials taunting him on the gallows was “barbaric”.

In Bush’s first comments on Saddam’s unruly televised hanging, which has inflamed sectarian passions in Iraq ahead of his announcement next week of a new Iraq strategy, he said he expected the Iraqi government to conduct a full investigation but said the ousted leader was given justice.“I wish, obviously, that the proceedings had ... gone in a more dignified way. But nevertheless, he was given justice,” said Bush.

“We expect there to be a full investigation of what took place,” Bush told reporters in the White House on Thursday.

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, one of Washington’s closest allies in the Middle East, joined the growing chorus of criticism, saying pictures of the execution were “revolting and barbaric”.

Violence in Iraq has heightened regional sectarian and ethnic tensions between the mainly Sunni Muslim Arab world and Shia who dominate Iraq and neighbouring, non-Arab Iran.

In an interview with Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Mubarak said the timing was “unreasonable” and that he had written to Bush asking him to postpone the execution. The Iraqi government has said the US envoy asked for a two-week delay.

“Then the pictures of the execution were revolting and barbaric, and I am not discussing here whether he deserved it or not. As for the trial, all experts in international law said it was an illegal trial because it was under occupation.

“Also, there was a conspiracy to carry out the execution before the end of the year,” Mubarak said.

The hanging took place on Saturday, the first day of the Eidul Azha holiday. Two of Saddam’s aides also convicted for crimes against humanity will hang shortly, officials said.

Iraqi investigators said they have identified two guards who illicitly filmed the images, which show observers yelling “Go to hell” and chanting the name of a radical Shia cleric and militia leader before Saddam falls through the trap.—Reuters

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