Brief profiles of major figures in the Iraqi leadership:

SADDAM HUSSEIN

Saddam Hussein al-Majid al-Tikriti was born to a peasant mother on April 28, 1937, in the village of al-Oja near the desert town of Tikrit, north of Baghdad. Became president, prime minister, chairman of ruling Revolutionary Command Council and field marshal.

Violence has long ben a part of Saddam's political strategy. Year after joining the then-underground Baath Socialist Party in 1957, he spent six months in prison for the slaying of his brother-in-law, a communist. In 1968, the Baath Party took over in a coup Saddam helped organize. Saddam pushed aside coup leader Gen. Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr to become president in July 1979, and hundreds of senior party members were imprisoned or executed.

After more than decade of sanctions and political isolation sparked by the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and felt most sharply by ordinary Iraqis, Saddam remained defiant, predicting in televised speech to nation that Iraq would "no doubt emerge triumphant" against any U.S.-led war.

In a country where family, tribe and hometown connections are paramount, Saddam has protected himself by grooming his son as successor and surrounding himself with relatives and friends from the Tikrit area.

Saddam and his wife, Sajida Khairallah Telfah, have two daughters and three sons. His daughters and his youngest son keep low profile. Saddam's wife is his cousin; he was raised by her late father, his uncle. Saddam's father died before he was born.

QUSAI SADDAM HUSSEIN

Saddam's second-oldest son, whom he is believed to be grooming as his successor. Qusai, 37, is a powerful behind-the-scenes figure. He supervises the Republican Guards, the country's best-trained and -equipped troops. Exiled critics of Saddam link Qusai to brutal crackdowns on the regime's opponents.

Qusai, who studied law, married the daughter of a senior military commander and the couple have three sons and a quiet private life.

ODAI SADDAM HUSSEIN

Saddam's eldest son, 39, seemed a strong candidate to succeed his father before he was shot and badly wounded in 1996. He has a reputation for brutality, and has wounded and killed several men, with one homicide reportedly occurring during a drunken argument at a party.

In contrast to Qusai, Odai is known as womanizer with a flamboyant wardrobe that runs from cowboy boots to flowing, gold-embroidered Arab robes.

Odai has a seat in parliament, runs Iraq's most popular newspaper, Babil, and a popular Youth TV channel and heads the National Iraqi Olympic Committee.

ALI HASSAN AL-MAJID

Al-Majid is Saddam's first cousin and linked to some of the most brutal episodes of Saddam's regime.

Al-Majid led the 1988 campaign against rebellious Kurds in northern Iraq in which thousands died, many in chemical attacks. He has also been linked to crackdowns on Shiites in southern Iraq. He was the governor of Kuwait during Iraq's seven-month occupation of the emirate in 1990-1991.

Al-Majid is the uncle of Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel al-Majid, Saddam's son-in-law who ran Iraq's clandestine weapons programs before defecting to Jordan in 1995 and who was lured back to Iraq and killed on his uncle's orders.

Before the 1968 revolution, al-Majid was a motorcycle messenger in the army. Under Saddam, he was the defense minister from 1991 to 1995.

ABED HAMEED HMOUD

Another Saddam cousin, who as the president's personal secretary and former bodyguard has been described as a key figure after Saddam's two sons. Iraqi opposition figures say Hmoud is among the top 10 Iraqis who should go on trial for crimes against humanity.

In the 1990s, Hmoud, in his 40s, was in charge of several security portfolios, including responsibility over places where Iraq has been accused of hiding weapons programs.

IZZAT IBRAHIM

Ibrahim has known Saddam since the early, underground days of the Baath party and has been deputy head of ruling council since Saddam seized power in 1979. One of the few old comrades to survive Saddam's frequent purges, Ibrahim, 60, has presided on special tribunals that tried Saddam's opponents and issued death sentences.

His daughter is married to Saddam's eldest son, Odai.

TAHA YASSIN RAMADAN

Vice president since March 1991 and considered as ruthless as Saddam. In 1970, Ramadan headed the revolutionary court that executed 44 officers for plotting to overthrow the Baath regime. During a visit to Jordan in the 1980s, Ramadan was quoted as telling fundamentalists that Muslims were free to follow their faith, "but if they try to harm the Baathist regime or ridicule its slogans, the regime will break their necks!"

Born in 1938 in Mosul in northeastern Iraq, Ramadan was a bank clerk and later a junior army officer before joining the underground Baath Party in 1956 and becoming close to Saddam. Although considered less influential now, Ramadan is high on the list of regime figures that Iraqi opposition groups say should be tried.

TARIQ AZIZ

Deputy prime minister, Aziz is the only Christian in the Iraqi leadership and one of Iraq's best-known voices to the world. Although one of Saddam's most loyal aides, Aziz, like most non-Tikritis, has virtually no power.

Born in 1936 in Mosul, Aziz studied English literature at the Baghdad College of Fine Arts, then became a teacher and journalist. He joined the Baath Party in 1957, working closely with Saddam to overthrow the British-imposed monarchy.

NAJI SABRI

Foreign minister since 2001, Sabri led failed negotiations with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan last year for the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq. He has crisscrossed the region seeking Arab support for Iraq.

Sabri is thought to be close to Saddam's younger son Qusai, and Saddam likely values Sabri's loyalty and command of English. But for sensitive missions Saddam is likely to pick a relative or longtime aide rather than Sabri.

Born in 1948, Sabri is that rare figure in Iraqi politics: a man who fell from grace without his career ending. In 1980 Sabri was recalled from the Iraqi Embassy in London when two brothers were jailed on conspiracy charges. One brother died in prison; the other was freed after six years. Sabri ran an English-language newspaper and arts journal in Baghdad for several years after the scandal. By time of the Gulf War, he had been rehabilitated.

Viewers of the 2002 HBO television movie Live From Baghdad will remember Sabri, identified in the film as Naji al-Hadithi, as the Iraqi official, played by David Suchet, who was the primary contact for the American television crew led by Michael Keaton's character.

TAHA MUHIE-ELDIN MAROUF

The only Kurd in the Baath hierarchy, Marouf has been vice president since 1975. His appointment as one of two vice presidents was seen largely as a gesture to the large Kurdish minority; he has little real power.

Born in 1924 into a prominent family in Kurd-dominated northern Iraq, Marouf joined the Baath Party in 1968 and held several ministerial posts. He has also served as ambassador to Italy, Malta and Albania.

GEN. IYAD FUTIYEH AL-RAWI

Former chief of staff and Republican Guard commander who now heads Fedayeen Saddam, a paramilitary force. A staunch Saddam loyalist, al-Rawi was awarded 27 medals during the 1980-88 war with Iran; he was severely wounded in the head leading a counterattack against an Iranian offensive.

SAADOON HAMMADI

Hammadi also recovered from a fall from favor. The U.S.-educated proponent of economic liberalization, he developed reforms after the 1980-88 war with Iran that were blocked by a sudden collapse in oil prices in 1990.

After 1991 Gulf War, Hammadi was named prime minister, but was ousted after seven months. Party insiders say Hammadi, a non-Tikriti, was the most outspoken in Saddam's circle. Since being rehabilitated and made parliament speaker in 1995, he has shown none of old zeal for reform.

Born into a wealthy family in 1930, Hammadi has a doctorate in economics from the University of Wisconsin.