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Iraqi leader: Saddam trial could begin in October

Saddam has been held since his capture on December 13, 2003.
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Saddam Hussein

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said Sunday that the trial of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein will begin in Iraq as soon as next month.

Appearing on ABC's "This Week," Allawi said, "I think [it will be] October, with some of his supporters who are detained; will be in court. Maybe he will appear in November or December, but definitely in October the whole issue will start -- of the trial."

Allawi was interviewed in London during a trip to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair earlier in the day. The Iraqi leader predicted the proceeding would not last long.

"It's going to be a very transparent and very just trial," Allawi said. "We are going to ensure that. But I don't think it's going to take a long time because the evidence against him is so much."

Allawi noted that the death penalty has been restored in Iraq, but said it was up to the Iraqi judicial system to decide Saddam's fate.

Allawi said Saddam had not revealed useful information to investigators.

The interim prime minister has not visited Saddam, but said he plans to talk with him after the trial in order to "understand why he would cause such damage."

Allawi insisted Iraqi elections would be held in January, as planned, but said he had not decided whether to seek office. "I haven't made my final ideas yet."

Allawi downplayed the magnitude of the Iraqi insurgency.

"It's still raging in Iraq; it's not getting stronger; it's getting more desperate," Allawi said. "We are squeezing out the insurgency. We are extending an olive branch to the fringes of the insurgency."

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska, disagreed with such upbeat assessments in his appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"The fact is, we're in trouble," Hagel said. "We're in deep trouble in Iraq. We need more regionalization. We need more help from our allies; we need the Iraqi people to come around us in a more supportive way."

Allawi is scheduled to travel next to New York, where he is to attend President Bush's planned address to the United Nations on Tuesday, and then to Washington, where he is to address Congress Thursday.

On his way back to Iraq, he then plans to stop again in London for a visit with Iraqi expatriates.

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