Dalai Lama wants Saddam spared

Tokyo, Japan - Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama appealed on Sunday for Saddam Hussein’s life to be spared, saying the deposed Iraqi president was not beyond redemption.

“The death penalty is said to fulfil a preventive function, yet it is clearly a form of revenge,” the Nobel peace laureate told reporters as he ended a two-week visit to Japan.

“However horrible an act a person may have committed, everyone has the potential to improve and correct himself,” he said.

“I hope that in the case of Saddam Hussein, as with all others, that human life will be respected and spared.”

An Iraqi court sentenced Saddam, ousted in a US-led invasion in 2003, to hang on November 5 for the deaths of 148 Shiites in an Iraqi village in 1982, after an attempt to assassinate him.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki has said he expected Saddam to be hanged before the end of the year.

The Dalai Lama has been critical of the US-led invasion of Iraq despite his relationship with US President George W. Bush, who has met with him in defiance of China.

China, which sent troops into Tibet in 1950, accuses the Buddhist monk of being a “splittist” and opposes his frequent travels overseas.

The Dalai Lama has said he was seeking greater autonomy for the Himalayan region within China and opposed all forms of violence. He fled into exile in India in 1959.