Speaking on Thursday at the start of the seventh session of his trial on charges of crimes against humanity, the former Iraqi president rekindled his battle of words with Washington.

"Zionists and Americans, I mean officials, hate Saddam Hussein," Saddam said. "The man in the White House is a liar. He said there are chemical weapons in Iraq.

"He later said that, 'We did not find anything in Iraq'."

Referring to a White House statement that his claims that he had been tortured were preposterous, Saddam said: "They lied again when they said that what Saddam said was wrong."

On Wednesday, Saddam accused the Americans of beating him in custody and said he had the bruises to prove it.

Saddam said: "I had my injuries documented by three American [medical] teams." He did not say where or when he was allegedly beaten.

Theatrics

There were other theatrical moments during Thursday's hearings: the judge dismissed one of the courtroom guards after the defendants complained that he had threatened them.

Barzan al-Tikriti accused his
jailers of abuse

Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Saddam's half-brother and co-defendant, accused the prosecutors of being former fellow members of the Baath party and a prosecutor asked to be relieved of his duties because of insults from the dock - a request dismissed by the judge.

Barzan also accused his jailers of abuse.

"They asked me questions and when I asked to be able to explain things they demanded that I reply by yes or no and slapped me across the face while I had handcuffs on," he said.

It was not immediately clear if he was referring to US or Iraqi interrogators. 

Witness too young

The first witness to testify on Thursday - speaking from behind a curtain and with his voice disguised - said he was eight during the killings in Dujail.

He said his grandmother, father and uncles had been arrested and tortured. The witness said he had never again seen his male relatives, implying that they had been killed.

Saddam said the court should not depend on the testimony of witnesses who had not reached adulthood at the time of the alleged crime.

Defence lawyers also questioned the reliability of the witness. 

"This is a waste of time," one said. "He was only a child." 

A second witness also gave evidence on Thursday and a third
was due after a recess.

Video editing

Barzan repeatedly interrupted the court, protesting at one stage that much of what he was saying was being edited out of video footage of the trial which is being broadcast on televisions with a 20-minute delay.

Judge Amin was accused of not
keeping proper order in the court

"If the sound is cut off once again, then I don't know about my comrades but I personally won't attend again, this is unjust and undemocratic," he said. 

Prosecutors have accused the defendants of grand-standing in an attempt to turn the trial into a political forum for their views.

A prosecutor then offered to resign, saying the presiding judge was not keeping proper order in the court and was allowing defendants to speak out of order. 

Rizkar Mohammed Amin, the presiding judge, would not accept his resignation. 

Barzan then accused the prosecutors of being former members of the Baath, the ruling party under Saddam. 

"This is the biggest insult there is, accusing me of belonging
to the bloody Baath," one of the prosecutors answered.

Barzan then stood up shouting: "Long live the Baath." 

This incident was edited out of video footage broadcast from the courthouse. 

Bailiff ejected

"This is the biggest insult there is, accusing me of belonging to the bloody Baath"

Prosecutor

In another courtroom incident, Amin ejected a bailiff after
defendants alleged he had threatened them.

It was not immediately clear who had allegedly been threatened or in what way.

Saddam and his seven co-defendants are charged with ordering the killing of 148 people from the mainly Shia village of Dujail, north of Baghdad, in the 1980s.

Prosecutors say Saddam ordered the killings in reprisal for a failed attempt to assassinate him in the village in 1982.

Scores of families from Dujail were rounded up and shunted between jails around Iraq for four years after the attack. 

The trial was adjourned until 24 January.