A top Iraqi official says Saddam Hussein will be executed before 6am on Saturday, Baghdad time, 3am GMT.
Members of Iraq's parliament and families of Saddam Hussein's victims will witness the former leader's execution. Earlier, American and Iraqi officials said Saddam was still in the hands of American guards. The physical transfer of the former dictator to Iraqi authorities is one of the last steps before his hanging. "There has been no change in his status," said Tom Casey, the US State Department's deputy spokesman. He said US Embassy officials in Baghdad told him that Saddam remained in American hands. A senior Iraqi government official said a meeting is being held between officials from Iraqi prime minister Nouri Maliki's office and US officials to set a time for the execution. Iraqi officials were gathered at an undisclosed location in the Green Zone, awaiting the arrival of US officials to set a time for the execution, the same official said. They will then travel together to another unspecified place where Saddam would be executed, he said. Mr Maliki has signed Saddam's death sentence, the same senior Iraqi official said. "We have agreed with the Americans that the handover will take place only a few minutes before he is executed," the official said. Saddam's lawyers issued a statement on Friday calling on "everybody to do everything to stop this unfair execution." Maliki said opposing Saddam's execution was an insult to his victims. His office said he made the remarks in a meeting with families of people who died during Saddam's rule