Raid Jouhi, a court spokesman, said on Monday: "The tribunal met today and decided that judge Raouf Abdel Rahman will head the court."

 

The court has been in turmoil since Rizgar Amin, the chief judge, resigned earlier this month in protest against political pressure to speed up the trial and stop Saddam's courtroom speeches.

 

The tribunal judges then appointed Amin's deputy, Judge Sayeed al-Hamashi, to preside over Tuesday's hearing, and sources within the court had said he was also the consensus choice to take over permanently.

 

But the court was thrown into fresh confusion last week by calls for al-Hamashi and 19 others to be barred for suspected links to Saddam's Baath party, charges they have denied.