New Saddam video surfaces on Internet

A new clandestine video posted on the Internet showed the body of Saddam Hussein lying on a hospital trolley with a vivid red wound in his throat after being hanged.

The 27-second clip, seen on Tuesday, showed a sheet being removed to reveal Saddam’s neck severely twisted and with a smear of blood on his left cheek.

It was the third illicit film — and fourth video altogether — to emerge since he was hanged on December 30 in an execution that inflamed sectarian passions in Iraq.

Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government, which says it is struggling to avert an all-out sectarian civil war, is investigating another illicit film showing Shi’ite officials taunting Saddam on the gallows that has sparked anger among Saddam’s fellow minority Sunni Arabs.

The Internet release of new grainy film, which appeared to have been taken by a mobile phone, came as President Bush told U.S. lawmakers he has decided to send about 20,000 more troops to Iraq in a plan to be announced on Wednesday.

The White House said Bush, who is reshuffling his commanders and diplomats in Iraq, would address Americans on his new Iraq plan on Wednesday at 9 p.m. (0200 GMT Thursday).

Gordon Smith, one of Bush’s fellow Republicans who a month ago said he could no longer support the war, was among senators who attended a White House meeting to discuss the president’s emerging strategy for Iraq, which Democrats have called an escalation of the war.

“It was clear to me that a decision has been made for a surge of, I suppose, 20,000 additional troops,” Smith told reporters.

Smith said Bush told him and several other senators that the plan for the additional troops had originated with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Maliki had made commitments that the Iraqi government and military would take steps to strengthen security in exchange for more U.S. troops, Smith said.

Seeking to salvage the U.S. mission in an unpopular war nearly four years after the invasion, Bush’s new plan is also expected to include setting “benchmarks” for Maliki to meet, aimed at easing sectarian violence and stabilizing the country.

It is also expected to contain a job creation program for Iraqis likely to cost more than $1 billion.

Bush could be setting a collision course with the new Democratic leadership in Congress, which says sending more troops to Iraq is an escalation and that it is time to start bringing 135,000 forces home.

Soon after Bush’s speech, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to go to the Middle East to try to promote stability in Iraq and Israeli-Palestinian peace — an area critics believe the administration has neglected.

Maliki, a Shi’ite Islamist, has announced a major security plan for Baghdad, vowing to crush illegal armed groups “regardless of sect or politics” — suggesting he may be ready to tackle militias loyal to his fellow Shi’ites, as demanded by Washington and the once dominant Sunni minority.

No clear action on the plan has yet been taken.

U.S. officials say the “benchmarks” to be outlined by Bush on Wednesday are aimed at prompting Maliki’s government to act to bring the warring groups into a political reconciliation.

© Reuters 2007