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U.S. Officials Deny That Hussein Will Be Handed Over --> 15 June 2004 -- U.S. officials say they are not aware of any immediate plans to hand over former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and other detainees to Iraq's new government.

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has said the U.S. will hand over former Iraq leader Saddam Hussein and all other detainees to Iraq's new government over the next two weeks as sovereignty is restored.

Officials from the Pentagon and the State department -- replying to Allawi's statement -- said yesterday they are not aware of such plans.

Allawi yesterday told the Arab satellite network Al-Jazeera that Hussein will be handed over to Iraq's new government after sovereignty is restored on 30 June. "The trial [of Saddam] will start as soon as possible. The handover will happen in the most transparent way. Saddam will be handed over to the Iraqi government," he said.

A U.S. official in Baghdad (Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson) said recently that as many as 1,400 detainees will either be released or transferred to Iraqi authorities. But he said the U.S. will continue to hold up to 5,000 prisoners deemed a threat to the coalition.

(international news agencies)