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Saddam sends messages to his supporters as he prepares to die
Saddam Hussein appeared yesterday to have lost his last chance of avoiding execution when the Iraqi presidency announced that the court decision upholding the death penalty was final.
Saddam's supporters issued threats of widescale retaliation, and international legal and human rights groups called for the sentence to be rescinded.
At the same time, two letters purporting to be from Saddam were posted on the internet bearing conflicting messages. One asks Iraqis not to hate the Western forces who have occupied their country, while the other urges them to rise up against the same forces.
Earlier a spokesman for President Jalal Talabani, who personally opposes the death penalty, had stated that Saddam's execution was not likely to require presidential approval.
One of Saddam's lawyers, Najib al-Nueimi, a former Qatari justice minister, said: "The defence team has exhausted all legal channels to appeal this decision, so it is up to the president's [Saddam's] family to present an appeal for clemency to the current President."
Hiwa Osman, an adviser to President Talabani, said: "Some people believe there is no need for his approval. We still have to hear from the court as to how the procedure can be carried out."
Under the Iraqi constitution, presidential approval is needed for a death sentence to be carried out. But Raed Juhi, the spokesman for the court which tried Saddam and his co-accused, insisted that this was academic. "We shall implement the verdict by the power of the law," he said.
In one of the letters released yesterday, Saddam says: "I call on you not to hate because hate does not leave space for a person to be fair and makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking. I also call on you not to hate the people of the other countries that attacked us and separated the people from those who govern them."
But in the other the former Iraqi president declares: "I offer myself in sacrifice. If God almighty wishes, my soul will take me where he orders to be with the martyrs... O brave, pious Iraqis in heroic resistance. Oh sons of the one nation, direct your enmity towards the invaders. Don't let them divide you... Long live jihad and the mujahedin against the invaders."
Observers believe the execution may be carried out quickly. The Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has said he wants the execution to take place before the end of the year. Iraqi and US officials are said to be worried that a delay would allow the build up of opposition.