Tariq Aziz Won't Testify Against Saddam

Tariq Aziz (search), a former senior aide for Saddam Hussein who has been in jail since April last year, will not testify against the former dictator, his lawyer said Friday.

Badee Izzat Aref Also quoted Aziz denying any doings related to the Oil-for-Food program that allowed Iraq to sell oil to buy food and medicine for its people suffering under U.N. sanctions imposed in 1990. U.N. officials have been accused of corruption over the Oil-for-Food program that started in 1996.

"I am not ready to testify against President Saddam Hussein (search). I will not say anything that contradicts with my conscience and honor," said a handwritten statement by Aziz that Aref showed to an Associated Press reporter.

Aref said he met Aziz for five hours Thursday in a small room in an area near Baghdad. A member of the U.S. military attended the meeting.

The lawyer said his driver dropped him at a checkpoint near Baghdad's airport and then he was taken in a three-vehicle convoy in a 20-minute drive to the location where Aziz and other former Saddam are being held.

It was the first meeting between Aziz and his lawyer since he was captured by U.S. troops 20 months ago. The meeting came shortly before Aziz is expected to be interrogated by an investigative judge.

"He appeared in good spirits and good health," Aref said about Aziz. He added that he does not know when Aziz will be questioned by an investigative judge.

The meeting comes 10 days after interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (search) said war crimes trials against Iraq's former Baath Party leaders were about to start. Last week, Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as Chemical Ali (search) for his role in poison gas attacks against the Kurdish minority, and former Defense Minister Gen. Sultan Hashim Ahmad appeared at a preliminary hearing.

Aziz, was among 12 defendants, including Saddam Hussein, who appeared before the judge to hear charges against them in July. He is also expected to be formally interrogated soon.

Aziz, the only Christian in the top Baath Party (search) leadership, was allegedly involved in several party purges in the 1970s and 80s during which an unspecified number of people died.