White House spokesman Tony Snow on Saturday mocked suggestions that the verdict in former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's trial in Iraq was timed to help Republican Party candidates ahead of tomorrow's key congressional elections.
"Are you smoking dope?" Snow laughed when asked if US and Iraqi officials colluded to issue the verdict yesterday to help supporters of President George W. Bush running for office.
"Are you telling me that in Iraq, that they're sitting around ... that the Iraqi judicial system is coming up with a [last-minute electoral] surprise?" he asked.
"The most important thing to note right now ... is that Iraq has an independent judiciary," he said.
"We're talking about an Iraq that can sustain, defend and govern itself. And you see, we've seen progress when it comes on the military side, not only the Iraqi security forces ... but also an independent judiciary," Snow said.
"These are things that are absolutely vital to building a democracy that will not only sustain itself, but have the faith and support of the populace," he added.
Snow refused to speculate on a possible increase of violence in Iraq if Saddam, as expected, was found guilty and sentenced to death.
Saddam and other conspirators were sentenced yesterday by the Iraqi High Tribunal in Baghdad over the killing of 148 Shiite villagers from the Iraqi village of Dujail in 1982.
Saddam and his co-defendants are currently facing charges in a second trial concerning the deaths of thousands of Kurds in the 1988 Anfal campaign.