The belated criticism was carried in a resolution adopted by Arab foreign ministers in an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Tuesday.

It stated the ministers' "condemnation of the gross violations of human rights and international law by the previous regime against the sons of the Iraqi people, and people from Kuwait and other countries".

The resolution condemned "the assassinations, genocides, mass graves and the killing of prisoners, including Kuwaiti detainees".

And it stressed the necessity of "bringing to justice the officials of the previous regime to account for the violations of the laws".

Mass graves

Dozens of mass graves have been uncovered throughout Iraq since Saddam's overthrow by invading US-led forces on 9 April.

In August, a UN official said there was no sign that any of the 605 Kuwaitis reported missing during Iraq's August 1990-February 1991 occupation of the emirate were still alive.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher attacked Saddam's regime on Tuesday, accusing him of having split Arab ranks when he ordered the invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.

Hoshyar Zebari given observer
status at the Arab League 

"We (the ministers) agreed that if Saddam Hussein managed to divide the Arab nation when he was present, his absence should not lead to another division," he said.

Maher was alluding to the Arab ministers' decision to allow the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council to occupy Iraq's place at the Arab League.

Iraqi minister

The admission was granted for a limited six-month to one-year period, during which the council has been asked to draw up a timetable for the drafting of a constitution and the forming of an elected government.

Iraq's US-appointed foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari was admitted to the meeting Tuesday.

During the Arab League conference the ministers also stressed the United Nations should assume a central role in the political process in Iraq.

And they called on the international community to support the Iraqi people's reconstruction efforts.