BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — U.S. officials reportedly tried to delay last week’s execution of Saddam Hussein, fearing it would fuel perceptions the death of the former Iraqi dictator was more about Shiite retribution and less about justice.
Those fears seemed borne out by an amateur recording of Hussein’s last moments.
It was a caution that fell on deaf ears, however, as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite, was determined to put Hussein to death before the beginning of the Eid al-Adha holiday.
The holiday began at sunrise Saturday for Iraqi Sunnis on Sunday for Shiites.
Hussein, a Sunni, was executed 6 a.m. Saturday (10 p.m. Friday ET).
Official: U.S. wanted to wait two weeks
By midday Friday, amid reports and public denials that the United States had given Iraqis custody of Hussein, American officials were talking privately with al-Maliki, according to a member of the Iraqi parliament close to the prime minister.
At one point, the parliament member said, a top U.S. official suggested a delay of two weeks.
Al-Maliki and his aides rejected that, the Iraqi official said, citing security concerns and rumors of possible violence swirling around the capital.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi official said, the Americans asked for written documentation to make sure the execution was legal under the Iraqi constitution.
There was one final hurdle: Would President Jalal Talabani, a Sunni Kurd who opposes the death penalty, object to the execution?
A phone call later Friday between al-Maliki and the president ended with a decision that Talabani’s signature was not needed.
No explanation for the decision was given.
Late Friday night, the parliament member told CNN, top U.S. officials met with al-Maliki’s deputies to work out when the handover should take place, along with other logistical arrangements.
At that point, Iraqi officials told the media that al-Maliki had signed the last crucial document.