ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (Reuters) - Iraqi authorities are weighing a U.S. request to allow the United States to retain custody of a captured Hezbollah operative, instead of handing him over to Baghdad by a December 31 deadline, the top U.S. military officer told Reuters on Wednesday.
Last week, the United States handed over all its remaining detainees in Iraq to the Iraqi government - with the notable exception of Ali Mussa Daqduq, who is suspected of orchestrating a 2007 kidnapping that resulted in the killing of five U.S. military personnel.
U.S. lawmakers fear Iraq will be unable to hold Daqduq, who was born in Lebanon, for long, warning Iraqi courts might be unable to convict him. U.S. officials have left open the possibility of bringing him to a U.S. facility for trial, perhaps by military commission or in a civilian court.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not enter into the different legal scenarios being weighed for Daqduq but acknowledged in an interview that Iraqi authorities were still weighing a U.S. request for custody.
Reuters reported previously the United States was seeking to maintain custody of Daqduq.
"The last time I touched it, which is before I went on this trip, we were exactly where you just described: we had made several interventions. They were considering it inside their legal framework and they hadn't gotten back to us yet," Dempsey told Reuters as he flew back to Washington after a trip to London. He left for London on Sunday.
Dempsey noted the matter needed to be resolved by an end-of-year deadline. Asked by Reuters whether a decision might go down to the wire, Dempsey quipped, "Most things do."
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Deborah Charles and Peter Cooney