BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Judges have postponed the verdict in the war crimes trial of Saddam Hussein, the court announced Tuesday, a delay that comes amid growing concern that any ruling would inflame Iraq’s deadly sectarian divide.

The tribunal faces a dilemma: A death sentence for the former leader could enrage Sunnis, while anything less is sure to spark Shiite fury.

It is a far cry from the hopes of many U.S. and Iraqi officials when the trial began nearly a year ago. They touted the tribunal as a way to help heal Iraq’s divisions by exposing atrocities during Saddam’s regime, establishing justice and opening the door for reconciliation.

“I think it would be a positive, not a negative,” Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday when asked about the prospect of a verdict, which had been expected on Oct. 16. “It would just bring closure to a chapter that was an unhappy and unpleasant and particularly vicious regime.”

In the past year, however, Shiite-Sunni divisions have grown, with thousands killed by Sunni insurgents and death squads from both Islamic sects.


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