The President of Iraq has said he will not sign the death order for one of Saddam Hussein's closest confidants, Tariq Aziz.
President Jalal Talabani's decision sets the stage for a possible battle over the fate of the man known as the international face of the dictator's regime.
Talabani yesterday cited a number of reasons for refusing to approve the execution.
"I cannot sign an order of this kind because I am a socialist," Mr Talabani said. "I feel compassion for Tariq Aziz because he is a Christian, an Iraqi Christian."
"In addition, he is an elderly man - aged over 70 - and this is why I will never sign this order," Mr Talabani said.
If the President does not sign the death order there are mechanisms for the execution to be ordered by parliament.
Death penalties in Iraq can be carried out regardless of the president's refusal to sign an execution order.