Saddam calls for coexistence

(AP)
Updated: 2006-12-28 06:26

The deposed leader said he was writing the letter because his lawyers had told him the Iraqi High Tribunal that tried his case would give him an opportunity to say a final word.

"But that court and its chief judge did not give us the chance to say a word, and issued its verdict without explanation and read out the sentence dictated by the invaders without presenting the evidence," Saddam wrote.

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"Dear faithful people," he added, "I say goodbye to you, but I will be with the merciful God who helps those who take refuge in him and who will never disappoint any honest believer."

Some Saddam loyalists threatened to retaliate if he is executed, warning in a posting on the same Web site that they would target US interests.

"The Baath and the resistance are determined to retaliate, with all means and everywhere, to harm America and its interests if it commits this crime," the statement said, referring to Baath fighters as "the resistance."

The Baath Party was disbanded after US-led forces overthrew Saddam in 2003. The Web site is believed to be run from Yemen, where a number of exiled members of the party are based.

The appeals court also affirmed death sentences for two of Saddam's co-defendants, including his half brother. It ruled life imprisonment for a third was too lenient and demanded the lower court also sentence him to death.

Some Iraqis said Saddam should be hanged immediately, but others feared Iraq's bloodletting could escalate if the former dictator is executed at a time when sectarian attacks are already on the rise.

"Executing him now is dangerous. The situation is very bad. Things need to be calmer," said Saadia Mohamed Majed, a 60-year-old Shiite in Baghdad who wants the penalty to be postponed for at least three years.

Saddam is in the midst of another trial, charged with genocide and other crimes during a 1987-88 military crackdown on Kurds in northern Iraq. An estimated 180,000 Kurds died during the operation. That trial was adjourned until Jan. 8, but experts have said the trial of Saddam's co-defendants is likely to continue even if he is executed.

The US command reported three American military deaths Wednesday, bringing the US death toll for December to 93 in one of the bloodiest months for US troops this year. Some 105 soldiers and Marines were killed in October, according to an AP count.

"This has been a difficult month for coalition forces, and the month is not over yet," a military spokesman, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, said.

Two Latvian soldiers were also killed and three were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded under their Humvee, the Latvian Defense Ministry said. It was unclear where the incident took place, but Latvia has about 130 soldiers serving in Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of Baghdad.

A top aide to the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was killed in a raid by US troops Wednesday in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, an Iraqi lawmaker said.

The US military said the death occurred during a joint operation by American and Iraqi troops. It described the man, Sahib al-Amiri, as a criminal involved in the use of roadside bombs.


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