Iraqi judges have begun questioning two of Saddam Hussein's top 11 lieutenants in preparation for war crimes trials involving the former regime.

The chief judge Raad al-Juhyi for the Special Tribunal, which is in charge of the trials, said Saddam's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as "Chemical Ali," appeared Saturday along with Saddam's former defense minister, General Sultan Hashim Ahmad.

The hearings will examine the charges brought against the men, examine any evidence, and determine whether they should stand trial.  There are indications that Saddam likely will be tried last.

No formal charges have been announced against Chemical Ali or the former defense minister, but charges are likely to include crimes against the country's Kurds and Shi'ites, as well as the 1990 invasion of neighboring Kuwait.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP, Reuters.