updated 11/29/2005 12:13:42 PM ET 2005-11-29T17:13:42

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark said Tuesday he met with deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and found him in “extremely good spirits” even though the former president is isolated from friends and family.

In an interview, Clark said he was having lunch Monday in Baghdad, where he attended Saddam’s resumed trial for alleged crimes against humanity, when he was told he could meet Saddam. He was alone with Saddam for a while before two soldiers joined them for the remainder of their meeting, which lasted about an hour.

Clark, who was attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson, declined to say who offered the meeting with Saddam, nor would he give any further details about where they met and the nature of the surroundings.

'Total isolation'
Saddam “has been in total isolation. He hasn’t seen a member of his family, talked to a member of his family, met with a lawyer or met with friends he has known before,” Clark said.

The New York Times on Tuesday published a transcript of a discussion between Saddam and his lead lawyer that was inadvertently heard through microphones left open during Monday’s lunch break.

Saddam was heard to suggest he had discouraged visits by his family because he did not want to put relatives through the ordeal. The translator’s notes of the conversation showed that Saddam mentioned something about “the women could be crying if they had to endure the circumstances of visiting him.”

Saddam was in “extremely good spirits to see people he knew that he could talk to that he hadn’t seen in a couple of years,” said Clark, who said he last saw the former Iraqi strongman in February 2003, shortly before the U.S.-led invasion.

“His mind was as clear and as sharp as ever,” Clark, who has been advising Saddam’s Iraqi lawyers, told The Associated Press at Amman airport on arrival from Baghdad.

Fair trial?
Issam Ghazawi, a Jordanian lawyer advising Saddam’s Iraqi defense team, told the AP that he, former Qatari Justice Minister Najib al-Nueimi and Saddam’s chief Iraqi lawyer, Khalil Dulaimi, also joined Clark and Saddam.

“The main issues discussed pertained to the legal aspect of the case and the violations of the rights of our client committed by the American and Iraqi sides,” he said without elaborating.

Clark said Monday’s proceeding was not a trial, but a hearing.

“It was a wasted day” in a process that, Clark said, would not produce a fair trial.

“This case presents as great a challenge of the possibility of a fair trial as any you’re likely to see because the emotions are so intense,” Clark said.

“The violence is ever present and widespread, people so desperate. The power, the political interests in it, the omnipresence of the United States behind every door, plus soldiers on the streets. There are real questions whether you can have a real trial.”

Clark said he would argue in a Dec. 5 hearing that the tribunal is not a legal forum for the trial. He also said he would ask the judicial authorities to provide more security for lawyers defending Saddam after the recent slayings of two Iraqi attorneys on the defense team.

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