He spoke out after prosecutors played tapes they said were of him talking about the need to purge "Kurdish saboteurs" from villages.

"The saboteurs are depending on the scattered villages to get support, ammunition and tips," a voice which prosecutors identified as al-Majid's was heard saying on the audiotape.

"I gave orders to the troops to catch anyone they find there and execute them after investigating them"

Ali Hassan al-Majid, former head of Iraq's northern command
The former defence minister, who faces a possible death sentence if found guilty, stood up in the courtroom and said: "I'm responsible for the displacement and I took this decision on my own, without going back to the High Military Command or the Baath party commander. I say that before your court and before God."

During the Anfal campaign, thousands of villages declared "prohibited areas" were razed and bombed as part of a scorched-earth campaign. Thousands of villagers were forced to flee.

In another tape, al-Majid is heard saying he had received a letter from Jalal Talabani, a Kurdish leader at the time and now Iraq's president, offering concessions on condition that Saddam's military stop destroying villages.

The defendants have said Anfal was justified as it targeted Kurdish guerrillas in northern Kurdistan who had sided with Iran during the last stage of the Iraq-Iran war.

On Monday, the Iraqi High Tribunal trying the Anfal case dropped its charges against Saddam Hussein after his death sentence was carried for crimes against humanity for the deaths of 148 Shia villagers in 1982.
   
The judge adjourned the trial until January 23.