Hussein's Voice Fills Trial After Death

BAGHDAD -- Saddam Hussein had been dead nine days but his voice resounded through the courtroom as he and his cousin, "Chemical Ali" discussed killing thousands of Kurds in the 1980s, audiotapes played at their war crimes trial revealed.

Hussein's physical presence was gone -- his chair in the white metal pen where the defendants sit was empty -- but his aura still hung over Monday's proceedings against his former regime members.

The trial reconvened for the first time since Dec. 21 and a little more than a week since Saddam was hanged for the killing of 148 Shiites after an assassination attempt in the town of Dujail in 1982.

The court's first order of business Monday was to dismiss all charges against Hussein. His co-defendants -- including his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali" -- remain in the dock for allegedly killing 180,000 Kurds in the 1980s as Iraq fought a protracted war with Iran.

Prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon aired graphic video during Monday's court session of scores of bodies in trucks and in piles on the street, overlaid with a voice purported to be that of Majid saying, "I will hit them with chemical weapons.

"Damn the international community if they say anything. I will strike them all with chemical weapons," the voice said.

Another audiotape had a voice identified as Hussein's warning, "These weapons are only used at my orders." He also reassured colleagues that the weapons "kill by the thousands."

In court, Majid described the video as "painful," but said it showed the work of Iranian troops, not Iraqis. As for the audio, Majid did not deny the voices were his and Hussein's.

Legal experts said they hoped that Hussein's six co-defendants would be more forthcoming with the dictator no longer listening.

The White House said U.S. President George W. Bush would lay out his new approach for the Iraq war Wednesday in a speech. Bush was expected to announce an increase of as many as 20,000 U.S. troops in a bid to contain sectarian warfare.