Saddam Hussein has confessed to signing orders that led to the deaths of thousands during a military campaign in the late 1980s, Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, said in an interview broadcast on Iraq TV tonight.
The campaign, codenamed "Al-Anfal," or "the spoils" was conducted against Iraq's Kurdish minority as the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war ended.
The former dictator reportedly "confessed" to the crimes in the course of pre-trial enquiries by the investigative judge.
Iraq's Kurdish minority supported Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, but al-Anfal is believed to have been more a response to a Kurdish uprising in 1975. The campaign was overseen by Hussein's cousin, General Ali Hassan al-Majid, who was later nicknamed "Chemical Ali."
In March 1988, Iraqi forces are believed to have attacked the Kurdish village of Halabja with chemical weapons, killing an estimated 5,000 people and leading to the oft-repeated charge that Saddam gassed his own people.
Some estimates say as many as 182,000 people died during the multi-year Al-Anfal campaign. It was one of seven preliminary charges made against Hussein when he appeared in court in Baghdad on July 1, 2004.
Earlier this year, Iraqi authorities said they planned to first try Hussein for the 1982 massacre of 143 Shiite Muslims in Dujail, a town north of Baghdad. He is slated to go on trial on Oct. 19, days after the nation is scheduled to vote in a referendum on a new constitution.
Saddam is expected to face execution if convicted of killing his countrymen.