It would also bring key members of the former government before the tribunal, officials in Baghdad said.

   

Officials from the Iraqi Governing Council told a news conference that US officials had agreed to hand over top members of the former government in detention to face trial by an Iraqi tribunal formally established on Wednesday.

   

"Saddam Hussein will be accused and charged with committing crimes against humanity and the Iraqi people. He will certainly come under the jurisdiction of this court," said Ahmad Chalabi, a senior member on the US-backed Governing Council.

 

Mass graves

 

Since Saddam Hussein’s ouster in April, officials have announced the discovery of 260 suspected mass graves across the country, which they have said could contain up to 300,000 bodies.

   

Of the 55 Iraqis wanted by the United States, 38 have been captured and two killed. Officials say trials would begin next year with the prosecution of some of the 38 in custody.

   

The mass graves could contain
up to 300,000 bodies

"We agreed that those who have been accused and detained would be handed over to this historic court," Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim told a news conference in Baghdad.

 

He called the creation of a tribunal to try crimes against humanity and genocide a "great achievement for the Governing Council in Iraq".

   

The setting up of the special tribunal is a "very significant" move, the US occupation administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, said.

 

"It's very significant," Bremer said in a television interview with the MSNBC network in Washington.