"Some witnesess are abroad so the 1st Trial Chamber decided to delay the session until Sunday, 29 January," Jouhi said on Tuesday.

He had been waiting for several hours for the proceedings to start on schedule.

Typically previous sessions started by 10.30 am unless there were hold-ups for, among other things, closed discussions among the legal teams.

Tuesday's session was to be the eighth since the trial for crimes against humanity began on 19 October.

It would have ended a turbulent month's recess in which the chief judge resigned, complaining of government interference, and his initial successor was ruled out after accusations he had been a member of Saddam's Baath party.

Raouf Abdel Rahman, from Halabja where 5000 died in a gas attack during an offensive by Saddam's forces, was appointed on the eve of the resumption of hearings to take over the chair of the five-judge panel from fellow Kurd Rizgar Amin.