Iraq could execute former leader Saddam Hussein (search) after trying him, the director of the country's war crimes tribunal system said Sunday.

Salem Chalabi, who is in charge of setting up a special tribunal to try members of the ousted regime, said that once the Iraqi government gains sovereignty on June 30, it will have the power to end U.S. occupation chief L. Paul Bremer's (search) suspension of the death penalty in Iraq.

"The Iraqi government has to affirmatively take that step to lift the suspension," Chalabi told British Broadcasting Corp. television's "Breakfast with Frost" program. "If the suspension imposed by Ambassador Bremer is lifted then there is the possibility of the death penalty being imposed" on those convicted of murder or rape.

Chalabi said tribunal officials were "negotiating quite intensively with the coalition forces" about taking custody of Saddam and detained members of his regime after the handover of power. He said the prisoners would probably be transferred to Iraqi custody "relatively soon after the transition."

He said it could be as long as a year before trials can begin. Investigations must be launched first and charges filed, he said.

Chalabi, who spoke from Baghdad, said "hundreds if not thousands" of Iraqis had come forward to give officials information about crimes by the former regime.