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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is expected to be executed "this weekend," Bush administration officials told CNN on Thursday.
Hussein will be transferred from U.S. to Iraqi custody within the next day, one official said.
More than one administration source confirmed the impending transfer.
But Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend, speaking on CNN's "The Situation Room," cautioned that the timing of the execution is up to the Iraqi government.
Two defense attorneys Thursday told Hussein in his jail cell that his death sentence had been upheld.
"He was not surprised at this. But he believes in his fate, and his only concern is the unity of the Iraqi people," chief defense attorney Khalil al-Dulaimi told CNN in Amman, Jordan.
Al-Dulaimi described the former Iraqi dictator's morale as "normal."
Hussein was convicted on November 5 for crimes against humanity in connection with the killings of 148 people after an attempt on his life.
His death sentence was upheld Tuesday by an appellate court. Hussein was not in attendance. (Full story)
Hussein's execution by hanging must take place before January 27 -- or within 30 days after the Iraqi High Tribunal upheld the death sentence -- according to chief Judge Aref Shaheen. (Watch tensions escalate over Hussein's imminent execution )
"He believes in his destiny," the attorney said.
Al-Dulaimi said that neither the defense team nor Hussein's family have been given an execution date.
The U.S. State Department also says it has not been told when Hussein will be executed.
Iraqi law requires that the family be allowed to visit the day before the execution and that they be notified by the prison administration of the date the sentence is to be carried out.
A senior Bush administration official said Thursday that the execution is likely to be "a couple of days" from now.
Under international law, most governments have the power to stay any executions, but Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has said his government would not do so in Hussein's case.
Hussein was sentenced to death for his role in the 1982 killings of 148 people in Dujail, a mostly Shiite town north of Baghdad, following an attempt on his life.
The dictator was found guilty of murder, torture, and forced deportation.
The Dujail episode falls within 12 of the worst cases out of the 500 documented "baskets of crimes" during the Hussein regime.
The U.S. State Department says torture and extrajudicial killings followed the Dujail killings and that 550 men, women and children were arrested without warrants.
A Web warning to U.S.
On the day Hussein's death sentence was confirmed, the Baath party that he led warned that it would retaliate against the United States and its interests as well as against members of the Iraqi High Tribunal if the execution is carried out.
It said the United States will suffer "grave consequences" if Hussein is executed.
The party also vowed to shut down peace negotiations with coalition forces, according to the statement the group released on an Arabic-language Web site.
The Baathists have been operating as part of the insurgency against the U.S. and its allies since Hussein's regime fell in 2003.
The group had "previously warned the U.S. administration of the grave consequences" and had called the death sentence "the most dangerous red line the U.S. administration should not cross," the message said.
I'm still concerned about the charges he went down for. In years to come, the history revisionists will write "That terrible war blah blah millions killed blah blah children burned alive blah blah - you've read the rest" will use the 143 deaths to put their position that there were better ways to deal with him.
Some will say "Who cares - the bstards dead" but that is surely facile and his true character was not properly established beyond all doubt. The facts will get set up alongside the myth of WMD and 45 minutes. Not delay his death but set up some sort of Commission. And, I do not mean the same Commission that investigates what Bush and Blair did because that will never establish any credibility.
Have to say I find a certain gallows humour at someone saying "Pack your kit - you're posted"