Iraq's interim defense minister says one of Saddam Hussein's closest aides, Ali Hassan al-Majid - better known as Chemical Ali - will be the first member of the ousted regime to go on trial for war crimes.

The minister, Hazem Shaalan, told reporters in Baghdad Wednesday, the trial could begin as early as next week, and that he did not expect it to be a long process.

On Tuesday, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi announced that trials against Saddam's top deputies would start next week, but did not specify which officials would appear in court.

Meanwhile, campaigning for Iraq's January 30 election officially got under way Wednesday. Mr. Allawi was among the first to officially announce his candidacy Wednesday, appealing to the country's diverse ethnic and religious groups.