The head of the Iraqi war-crimes tribunal on Tuesday said that Saddam Hussein will be handed over to Iraqis for trial by July 1 — the day after the scheduled handover of limited sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government.
Salem Chalabi told reporters that trials would begin early next year, and that judges would receive "files" on the suspects at the end of this year.
Chalabi is in Kuwait to collect evidence against the suspects.
Meanwhile, U.S. forces clashed with Shiite Muslim militiamen in Kufa, killing at least five Iraqis and injuring 14 others, hospital officials said Tuesday.
The clashes took place about sundown Monday on the southern end of Kufa and lasted for about an hour.
Kufa is located close to Najaf, where radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took refuge last month after U.S. authorities announced they were seeking him in the assassination last year of a moderate cleric.
In Najaf, about a thousand Iraqis marched through the street, calling for the radical cleric and his followers to leave.
U.S. troops have been involved in sporadic clashes with al-Sadr's gunmen for weeks. But the Americans have avoided an all-out assault on Najaf to avoid inflaming Shiite passions.
When the group passed by al-Sadr's office, his militia took up positions and fired into the air. But there was no clash, and the protest continued without incident.
In other developments:
Residents of Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood Sadr City on Tuesday began rebuilding the headquarters of a militant Shiite Muslim cleric which was destroyed in a tank and helicopter attack by U.S. forces.
The building, used as a district headquarters by forces of al-Sadr, was destroyed about midnight Sunday during clashes between U.S. troops and his al-Mahdi Army militia.
At the urging of the al-Mahdi Army, local Shiites brought bricks, cement and gypsum to the site. Parts of the building had already been repaired by midday.
"The city people pulled up their socks when they heard this sorrowful incident," Sheik Malik Swadi said. "Together they embarked on rebuilding the office."
He said the plan was to "revive the building as it is a religious office rather than a center for terror. We wonder why the Americans bombed it...Rebuilding this office is a challenge to the Americans. If they destroy it 10 times, we will revive it 10 times."
The attack on the office occurred at the end of daylong fighting between U.S. troops and the al-Mahdi Army, which the U.S.-led coalition has vowed to disband. Its leader, al-Sadr, is sought in the assassination last year of a rival cleric in Najaf.