The lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, on Sunday said: "The idea was being discussed; but we now have conclusive information the hunger strike is not on Monday."

Saddam and some of his former top aides have not attended the last two court sessions, having followed the lead of their defence counsel, who walked out of court on 29 January.

Three minor Baath party officials were then barred from the last session on 2 February for "causing chaos" outside the courtroom.
 
Courtroom chaos

A source in the Iraqi High Tribunal said Saddam and his associates would be forced to attend Monday's session of the trial, which has been beset by delays, postponements and courtroom chaos since it began in October.

Saddam's defence team, led by Dulaimi, walked out of the court after Raouf Abdel Rahman, the new chief judge, ejected a member of the team and one of the defendants for refusing to be quiet.

Abdel Rahman, who took charge of the trial on 29 January, then appointed lawyers from the Tribunal's Defence Office to represent Saddam and his co-accused, although the accused have rejected them.
 
Dulaimi's team has refused to return to court until demands are met, including the removal of the chief judge, whom they accuse of bias.
 
Saddam and his co-accused are charged with the killing of 148 men from the Shia town of Dujail in reprisal for an attempt to assassinate Saddam there in 1982.