"[The] Iraqi interim government has contacted the Jordanian government in order to pressure us and prevent us from going to Iraq to defend the legitimate president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein," chief lawyer Muhammad al-Rashdan said.

 

"But Jordan’s government has never interfered in our work, it never tried to prevent us from fulfilling our mission."

 

The defence team has in recent weeks cited numerous death threats and the failure to provide adequate security as major reasons for not entering Iraq to meet their presidential client.

 

Members of the Iraqi tribunal charged with prosecuting Saddam Hussein had also stipulated that only a lawyer belonging to the Iraqi Bar Association be allowed to defend the former president.

Isam Ghazawi, one of the 21-strong defence team hired by Saddam's wife, said last week that an Iraqi lawyer had been chosen to represent the former president "from among 20 who volunteered".

Iraqi Bar Association

On Tuesday, however, the interim Iraqi government was reported to have issued a decree disbanding the Iraqi Bar Association, and calling for election of a new council for the association.

Liberal Aziz had been seen as the 
godfather of Iraq's diplomacy

Iraq lawyers confirmed the report, which had been earlier published in the Arab press, and said the interim government wants an elected association chairman to wield influence with the nominating of Iraqi lawyers to represent Saddam Hussein.

But al-Ghazawi, said the Saddam defence team had already received formal approval from the association to proceed before Iraqi courts.

The defence team has already selected 17 lawyers from Jordan, Tunisia, Libya, Lebanon and Morocco.

Tariq Aziz

In related news, media reports suggested that imprisoned Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz is considering a deal with US occupation authorities in Iraq which would have him serve as a prosecution witness in exchange for his release.

The Saddam defence team, which had earlier been asked by the Aziz family to defend the deputy prime minister, said it would no longer represent Aziz if such a deal were struck.

"Despite that, I do not believe that Mr Aziz would testify against Saddam, it is a bid by pro-US parties to distort his reputation," al-Rashdan told Aljazeera.net.

 

"We are fully aware of attempts to bring our team to a total collapse, but that will not happen."