Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who faces hanging before the end of January, has written a letter to the Iraqi people, urging them to unite and saying he is prepared to sacrifice his life for his country. VOA's Margaret Besheer in northern Iraq, reports Iraqis are of mixed opinions over Saddam's letter and his fate.
Saddam's letter appeared Wednesday on the Baath Party's Web site. News agencies report a member of the former dictator's legal team confirmed that it is authentic and Saddam wrote it after his death sentence was handed down by a special Iraqi Tribunal on November 5 for the murders of 148 Shi'ite men in 1982. Iraq's highest appeals court upheld that sentence on Tuesday.
In the letter, Saddam urges Iraqis to embrace brotherly coexistence, and calls on them not to hate the people of the countries that invaded Iraq, saying they should distinguish between the decision-makers and the people, and hate only the action.
Saddam says he is at peace with his death sentence, saying he offers his soul as a sacrifice, and if God wants him to die, it will happen, and if God wants it postponed, he will be spared.
On a Baghdad street, Noor Jabbar says, "When Saddam says in his letter that he offered himself for sacrifice for Iraq and called for unity, whether you agree with him or not, all Iraqis want unity and want foreign forces to leave the country."
Omar Hassan al-Jabbouri, a Mosul resident, says he thinks many Iraqis will hear Saddam's message and do what he says, because so many of them still love him.
But on the subject of Saddam's impending execution, reaction was complex.
Faris al-Dulaimi, a Sunni Arab, says, as an Iraqi, he doesn't want to see Saddam hanged, because he thinks it will hurt Iraq's image in the eyes of the world. He is also concerned that the execution will lead to an upsurge in terrorism.
Saddam has been on trial since August for crimes against the Kurds of northern Iraq. He faces charges of genocide for the so-called Anfal campaign of the 1980s in which some 180,000 Kurds were killed, some by chemical weapons. But his death sentence will end that trial before a verdict can be delivered. He was also due to stand trial separately for the 1988 gassing of 5,000 Kurds in the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja.
Ismail Ahmed, a Kurd living in the northern city of Irbil, says he wants Saddam punished, but not before the Anfal and Halabja cases are finished, because, he says, he wants everyone to know what Saddam did to the Kurdish people.