But the 79-year-old lawyer also said on Sunday that he feared the United States might try to kill Saddam prior to trial. "I have this fear. I am not sure. If I express my fear, it's precisely to avoid this."

The lawyer, whose past clients have included Nazi Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie, Carlos the Jackal, and former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, said in March that Saddam's nephew Ali Barzan al-Tikriti had asked him to represent his uncle, who was captured by US forces in Iraq in December.

"This mass destructive weapons were sold to Iraqi government by the United States. And Mr Rumsfeld has been one of the men responsible for this sale, for this bargain, for this market," Verges told CBS.

He said he would call Kissinger to testify "for sure".

Asked if he would try and put the US on trial in his defence of Saddam, he said: "What I am criticising is not (the) United States; (it) is the actual leaders of the (United States)."

Curiosity

Verges said his defence of some of the worst perpetrators of crimes against humanity is because, "I am curious to understand."

The French lawyer has also brushed off a claim by Jordanian lawyer Muhammad Rashdan that he has not been legitimately appointed.

Rashdan told AFP he had been contacted by Saddam's wife and eldest daughter to personally represent the former Iraqi leader and that Verges had no right to representation.