The new Iraqi government wants custody of Saddam Hussein and all other prisoners by the time sovereignty is handed over at the end of this month, the interim prime minister said.
U.S. forces have said they will continue to hold up to 5,000 prisoners believed to be a threat to the coalition even after the June 30 restoration of sovereignty. They say as many as 1,400 detainees will either be released or transferred to Iraqi authorities.
But in an interview with Al-Jazeera television, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said Iraqi officials expect to take possession of Saddam and all other detainees with the transfer of power.
"All the detainees will be transferred to the Iraqi authorities and the transporting operation will be done within the two coming weeks," Allawi said. "Saddam and the others will be delivered to the Iraqis."
He said the former Iraqi president would stand trial "as soon as possible" but gave no specific timeframe. The detainees and "Saddam as well will be handed to the Iraqi government, and you can consider this as an official confirmation," he added.
Saddam has been in American custody at an undisclosed location in Iraq since his capture last December near Tikrit. His status has been under discussion as the formal end of the U.S.-led occupation approaches.
The Baghdad-based spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross said coalition authorities must file criminal charges against Saddam or let him go when sovereignty is transferred.
The new interim government is trying to assert itself even as Iraqi and U.S. forces struggle to keep order in Iraq.