U.S. Accused of Delaying Saddam Probe

Iraq's justice minister said Tuesday that U.S. officials are trying to delay interrogations of Saddam Hussein (search).

Justice Minister Abdel Hussein Shandal, in Brussels for an international conference on Iraq, also accused the U.S. of concealing information about the ousted Iraqi leader.

"It seems there are lots of secrets they want to hide," he told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.

Shandal also said Saddam's trial would be over by the end of the year.

American officials have privately urged caution about rushing into a trial, saying the Iraqis need to developed a solid judicial system. They also worry it could interfere with the important constitution writing process and inflame sectarian tensions.

Though Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's (search) Shiite-led government is determined to put Saddam on trial, circumstances may not allow it.

His government earlier this month said Saddam's trial would be held within two months, but later backtracked. No trial date has been set for Saddam or any of the other former regime officials being held in custody.

Saddam's trial could be a highly divisive issue in already turbulent Iraq. If court proceedings begin in two months, they will coincide with the crucial process of drafting the constitution. The draft must be finished by mid-August and approved in a referendum two months later, clearing the way for December elections.

Saddam, 68, is still being interrogated, the justice minister said.

"The process requires collecting evidence but the rule of Saddam was for 35 years, and it needs a lot of evidence, a lot of interrogations," he told The Associated Press.