The sentence has already stoked Iraq's sectarian rage, with the Shiite majority demanding Saddam's death and his fellow Sunni Arabs calling the trial tainted.
"From tomorrow, any day could be the day" Saddam is sent to the gallows, the chief judge said. Saddam was condemned to death for his role in the execution of 148 Shiite Muslims from the small northern town of Dujail, after a 1982 assassination attempt.
The decision came on a particularly bloody day in Baghdad, where at least 54 Iraqis died in bombings and police discovered 49 apparent victims of sectarian reprisal killings. Separately, the U.S. military announced the deaths of seven American soldiers.
And the clock starts ticking.