- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 27, 2006

BAGHDAD — Saddam Hussein called on Iraqis not to hate the U.S.-led forces that invaded Iraq in 2003 in a farewell letter posted on a Web site yesterday, a day after an appeals court upheld the former dictator’s death sentence and ordered him to be hanged within one month.

One of Saddam’s attorneys, Issam Ghazzawi, confirmed in Jordan that the letter was authentic, saying it was written by Saddam on Nov. 5 — the day he was convicted by an Iraqi tribunal for ordering the killings of 148 Shi’ite Muslims in the city of Dujail in 1982.

“I call on you not to hate because hate does not leave space for a person to be fair and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking,” the letter said.

Mr. Ghazzawi said the letter was released Tuesday and published yesterday on the Web site of Saddam’s former Ba’ath Party.

The deposed leader said he was writing the letter because his attorneys 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.

“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.”

The letter was released as Saddam’s last legal means of avoiding execution came under question. A spokesman for President Jalal Talabani said the appeals court order upholding the death sentence might not require Mr. Talabani’s approval to carry out the execution.

Meanwhile, some Saddam loyalists threatened to retaliate if he is executed, warning in a posting on the Ba’ath Party Web site that they would target U.S. interests anywhere.

The Ba’ath Party was disbanded after U.S.-led forces overthrew Saddam in 2003. The Web site is thought to be run from Yemen, where several exiled members of the party are based.

In its ruling Tuesday, the appeals court said Saddam must be hanged within 30 days for his role in the Dujail killings. The court also affirmed death sentences for two co-defendants, including Saddam’s half brother. It ruled that life imprisonment for a third was too lenient and demanded that he also be sentenced to death.

Many Baghdad neighborhoods were jittery yesterday amid fears that Sunni Arab insurgents would target Shi’ite areas in revenge attacks.

Violence appeared to be relatively minimal, though, with one car bombing killing eight civilians and wounding 10 near an army checkpoint in the capital, police said.

The U.S. military reported three troop deaths, bringing the U.S. death toll in December to 93 in one of the bloodiest months for American troops in Iraq this year.

Two Latvian soldiers were killed and three were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded under their Humvee, the Latvian Defense Ministry said. It was not clear where the incident occurred, but Latvia has about 130 troops serving in Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of Baghdad.

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