Pentagon “unaware” of Saddam handover

But the Pentagon says it is not aware of any immediate plans for Saddam and thousands of other Iraqi detainees, to be transferred from US custody to Iraq.

“The transfer of Saddam Hussein and the others will take place within two weeks,” Mr Allawi told al-Jazeera television.

“Yes, Saddam and the others will be handed over to the Iraqi government, and their trial will begin as soon as possible, God willing,” he said.

The head of Iraq’s special tribunal on war crimes, Salem Chalabi, said the country will soon have a detention centre ready to hold Saddam and his former henchmen.

He said arrest warrants would be required before the former leader was transferred to Iraqi authorities.

In Washington a senior State Department official said the Saddam issue is being discussed.

“If the Iraqis want him, we’re receptive to ideas to transfer him. But I am not aware of any plan that’s been worked out on this. Still, if they’re going to push on it, we are not going to push back,” he said.

The US-led coalition is to hand over control of Iraq on June 30.

Saddam was captured on December 13 hiding near his birth town of Tikrit in a hole in the ground.

Details on his detention and interrogation are scant, however it is believed he is being held near the Baghdad airport, and US officials have described him as less than cooperative.

He is currently held without charge, but is likely to be tried for the persecution of the Shi’ite Marsh Arabs in southern Iraq in the 1980s and 90s, and for alleged war crimes against Kuwait.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Saddam must be freed or charged before June 30, as holding him without charge after the transfer date would contravene international humanitarian law.

Meanwhile, Mr Allawi vowed to increase security after a string of bomb attacks killed around 16 people in Baghdad on Monday.

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