The Iraqi government is refusing to execute the Saddam Hussein henchman and cousin known as "Chemical Ali" unless the executions of two other Saddam associates also are approved. The fight pits the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki against the three-member presidential council, and is another blow to Iraq's beleaguered judicial system. Already on Wednesday, two former Health Ministry officials were released after being cleared on charges that they helped Shi'ite death squads operate, giving them access to hospitals and ambulances. There are widespread allegations of witness intimidation in that case. In case of the executions, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a telephone interview that Maliki's administration "refuses to take over Ali Hassan al-Majid without the two other convicted people." Last Friday, Iraq's three-member presidential council - President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, along with the Sunni and Shi'ite vice presidents - endorsed the death sentence of al-Majid, who earned the grim nickname "Chemical Ali" for gassing Kurd civilians during a brutal crackdown on their region in the 1980s.