PARIS — A French lawyer who claims to be representing Saddam Hussein said Sunday he doesn't think there will be a trial for a long time and criticized President Bush for pronouncing the former dictator guilty of atrocities.

Jacques Verges said he believes the United States has violated the Geneva Conventions on several counts in its detention of Saddam, and said the world must wait for a trial to determine what Saddam did wrong.

"We know that Mr. Bush has said he's guilty," Verges told Associated Press Television News. "But what does that mean? Mr. Bush is not a judge. We cannot accept him as a judge. He is an enemy of Saddam Hussein."

Verges, known for taking on clients including terrorists and a Nazi leader, said he didn't think Saddam's trial would happen "before a long time."

By the most conservative estimates, Saddam's regime killed 300,000 men, women and children during his 23 years as president. Investigators are still sifting through millions of pages of documents and some 270 mass graves.

Verges said he received a letter from Saddam's family requesting that he defend the former leader, and he agreed to do so. There has been no confirmation that he will be Saddam's lawyer, and U.S. officials have not yet commented on the claim.

Verges said his most pressing work will be to ensure that Iraq's occupying forces respect the 1949 Geneva Conventions. He said Saddam's family has received no information about his health in U.S. detention. Saddam was captured in December.

Referring to the televised footage of Saddam's medical exam after his capture in December, Verges said: "It's against the Geneva Conventions to interrogate a man, examine and exhibit him like an animal at a fair, with a doctor acting more like a veterinarian — looking at his teeth, his hair, his tongue."

President Bush has said that details still need to be worked out before Saddam can be handed over to Iraq's leaders, who have said they want a quick trial that would sentence Saddam to death.

The International Committee of the Red Cross visited Saddam in jail for the first time in February. The ICRC does not release details of such visits or the prisoner's confinement.

However, Saddam did write a letter to his family that was to be delivered once the United States confirmed it does not contain any hidden messages to his followers. Verges did not discuss that letter.

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Verges also said he hopes to take Saddam's case to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

Though the United States has not ratified the 1998 treaty establishing the court, Verges said he still believed that other nations that took part in the U.S.-led war, including Britain and Spain, could be held responsible there.

The court, however, has previously indicated that it doesn't have jurisdiction over events that occurred in Iraq, which also never ratified its founding treaty.

Verges has previously defended Klaus Barbie, a Nazi Gestapo chief in France during World War II. Last month, Khieu Samphan, a former Khmer Rouge leader, said he had picked Verges to defend him at a proposed genocide trial for surviving leaders of the group that ruled Cambodia in the 1970s.

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