"The head of the investigative judges team questioned Saddam... on whether he had dismissed all his lawyers except the Iraqi lawyer Khalil Dulaimi," a statement issued by the special tribunal said on Tuesday.

"Saddam confirmed that he has dismissed all lawyers and cancelled their authorisations ... and that the only authorised lawyer is Khalil Dulaimi," it added, without specifying when the hearing took place.

The former imprisoned president told the judge that Dulaimi would inform the court if "a need arises, to enlist the assistance of other lawyers or consultants", the statement said.

Loss of trust

Saddam's family has accused the foreign defence team, which has about 20 active lawyers, of using its position to further interests not linked to the case.

Saddam Hussein is being tried for
crimes against humanity

Saddam, who was ousted in April 2003 after the US-led invasion of Iraq and captured the following December, is in US custody near Baghdad awaiting trial on charges of crimes against humanity.

No trial date has yet been set, although Iraqi government officials have said it could take place within the next two months.

Last month, the court filed the first charges against Saddam over the 1982 killing of 143 residents of the village of Dujail, northeast of Baghdad, where he had been the target of a failed assassination bid.