Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak has strongly condemned the conduct and timing of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's execution at the start of a Muslim religious festival and questioned the legality of the sentence, passed by an Iraqi court while the country itself is under US control.
In an interview published Friday in Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, Mubarak said that when it became clear that the hanging was imminent he sent a message to US President George W. Bush, asking that it not be carried out during the Eid al-Adha holiday.
"Don't do it at this time," Mubarak said he told Bush. "Why is it necessary to hang (him) just at the time when people are saying the holiday prayers."
The insensitive timing, he said was then followed by the clandestine video showing "shocking pictures, primitive pictures" of Saddam being taunted by his Iraqi guards and then dangling from a rope, which appeared on Al-Jazeera television and Web sites just hours after the hanging on Saturday, the first day of the festival.
"It was disgraceful and very painful," Mubarak told Yediot's Middle East editor Semadar Perry in the interview, conducted at the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheik Thursday, a few hours ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's meeting there with the Egyptian leader.
"I'm not going to say whether Saddam deserved the death penalty or not," Mubarak said. "I'm also not going to go into the question of whether that court is legal under the occupation."
"When all's said and done, nobody will ever forget the circumstances and the manner in which Saddam was executed," he added. "They have made him into a martyr, while the problems within Iraq remain."