Saddam gets counselling to end hunger strike

BAGHDAD - Saddam Hussein is receiving psychiatric counselling to convince him to start eating again after 12 days on hunger strike in a US military prison.

Saying that the 69-year-old ousted Iraqi president was still refusing food but taking liquid nourishment, a US spokesman said such counselling was part of additional daily medical care for inmates who risked damaging their health by their actions.

"Medical and mental health professionals counsel the detainees on the dangers," Lieutenant Colonel Keir-Kevin Curry said. "They try to convince the detainees to end their fast."

Saddam and three co-defendants who last ate on July 7 are all healthy, Curry said.

A lawyer for Saddam, who is due back in court on Monday, has said his client's health has suffered but that he is determined to pursue the protest until US officials improve protection for defence attorneys and meet other demands on the trial.

US officials involved with the Iraqi court trying Saddam and seven others for crimes against humanity have said that a defence lawyer killed last month, the third since the trial began, had refused US offers of protection.

The defence team responded to a letter in English from a foreign legal adviser to the court urging them to end a boycott of the proceedings by publishing the letter, describing it as a threat and complaining it should have been written in Arabic.

- REUTERS

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