updated 1/3/2007 2:28:12 PM ET 2007-01-03T19:28:12

Preparations are under way to execute two of Saddam Hussein’s co-defendants in the next few days, but the details still must be worked out with the U.S. military, Iraqi media and a government official said Wednesday.

Saddam’s half brother Barzan Ibrahim, a former intelligence chief, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, were originally scheduled to die with Saddam. But their execution was delayed until after Islam’s Eid al-Adha holiday, which ends Wednesday for Iraq’s majority Shiites.

The government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, said the exact place and time of the hangings had not been set.

The U.S. military said the executions, like Saddam’s, were the responsibility of the Iraqi government.

“It’s a sovereign nation. It’s their system. They make those decisions,” said U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell.

U.N. human rights chief Louise Arbour appealed to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to prevent the execution of Ibrahim and al-Bandar, saying she was concerned with “the fairness and impartiality” of their trials.

Al-Arabiya satellite television and Al-Furat TV, run by Iraq’s major Shiite Muslim political organization, both reported Wednesday that the co-defendants, Ibrahim and al-Bandar, would go to the gallows on Thursday. But Mariam al-Rays, an al-Maliki adviser, called such reports “baseless.”

A government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, told the AP that final arrangements still needed to be made with U.S. officials about the time and place of the executions. The American military was expected to transport the two men from prison to the execution site.

Barzan and al-Bandar’s executions were delayed so that Saddam could be “executed on a special day,” al-Rubaie told state-run Al-Iraqiya television on Saturday.

Saddam, Ibrahim and al-Bandar were sentenced to death for the 1982 killings of 148 Shiite Muslims in the town of Dujail, north of Baghdad, after a failed assassination plot against Saddam. They were convicted Nov. 5, and the verdict was upheld by an appeals court Dec. 26.

Meanwhile, al-Maliki told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published Tuesday that he wishes he could leave office before his four-year term expires, and he would not run again.

“I did not want to take this position,” he said, calling it “impossible” that he would serve a second term, he was quoted as saying.

Also Wednesday, U.S. troops detained 23 people suspected of having ties to senior al-Qaida leaders in raids in western Iraq, the military said. The raids took place in Ramadi, the capital of volatile Anbar province.

During the raids, three suspects detonated a bomb, then ran into a house. U.S. troops shot one of the suspects, wounding him as he tried to flee, the military said.

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