Putin Likens Saakashvili To Hussein

An angry Prime Minister Vladimir Putin spoke in graphic terms about hanging Georgia's president during talks about a cease-fire to end the August war between the two countries, according to a French magazine report.

A spokesman for the Kremlin confirmed that "the rhetoric was very harsh" at the meeting.

The French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur reported Thursday that Putin compared Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during a meeting in Moscow with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The magazine said Sarkozy suspected that the Russian military was going to topple Saakashvili and set up a puppet government in Georgia.

"You can't do that, the world will not accept it," the magazine quoted Sarkozy as telling Putin in the Aug. 12 Kremlin meeting attended by President Dmitry Medvedev.

It described its source as Sarkozy's diplomatic adviser, Jean-David Levitte.

"I'm going to have Saakashvili hanged," Putin said, ending the sentence with a crude anatomical reference.

"Hang him?" Sarkozy reportedly said.

"Why not?" Putin reportedly said. "The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein, didn't they?"

"Yes, but do you want to end up like Bush?" Sarkozy said.

"You have a point there," Putin said.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, "Putin spoke in words very similar to what is written in the article."

Both Levitte and Sarkozy's senior spokesman declined to comment.

Peskov said the report inaccurately implied that Putin, rather than Medvedev, was in charge of Russia's military operations in Georgia.