Speaking on Sunday, Muhammad al-Rashdan said: "Salim Chalabi telephoned me last night and said he wanted to facilitate the action of the defence team in the tribunal."

But Chalabi insisted Iraqi law stipulates that Saddam's in-court defence lawyer be Iraqi - an interpretation that al-Rashdan takes issue with - although he said the Jordanian team has "begun contacts to choose an Iraqi lawyer".

Al-Rashdan also told reporters that "several families" of the 11 former Saddam aides set to go on trial had contacted him, and that on Saturday he was given power of attorney from the family of former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz.

AFP news agency obtained a copy of the document, which had been signed by Aziz's wife, Violette, their sons Ziad and Saddam, and their daughters Zainab and Maisaa.

Al-Rashdan's team, so far denied entry into Iraq let alone access to Saddam, had renewed its request to do so with Iraqi legal and US military authorities.

A defiant Saddam appeared in court for the first time on Thursday to hear preliminary charges of crimes against humanity.

He denounced the legality of the court set up to try him and refused to sign any papers without the presence of his lawyers.