<!--:es-->Facing gallows, Saddam offers «sacrifice» for Iraq<!--:-->

Facing gallows, Saddam offers «sacrifice» for Iraq

“Here I offer myself in sacrifice,” Saddam said in a letter obtained from his defense lawyers in Jordan on Wednesday. “If my soul goes down this path (of martyrdom) it will face God in serenity.”

The defense team said he had dictated it shortly after he was sentenced to death in November for crimes against humanity. The Iraqi High Tribunal appeals court upheld the sentence on Tuesday and said Saddam should be hanged within 30 days.

Saddam’s execution will come as President Bush looks to usher in a new era for U.S. policy in Iraq amid public anger at home over rising U.S. casualties.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi’ite Islamist who heads a national unity government that also includes Sunni Arabs and ethnic Kurds, has said Saddam’s execution cannot come soon enough. But he faces the challenge of implementing the sentence without fuelling sectarian and political tensions.

Saddam’s Baath party threatened to retaliate if the ousted leader was executed: “Our party warns again of the results of carrying out such a verdict, on the situation in Iraq and America in particular,” read a statement posted on the Internet.

“It is the most dangerous red line that the American administration should not cross,” said the statement, which could not be independently verified.

In his letter, which was also posted on a Web Site on Wednesday, Saddam called on Iraqis to unite.

“O brave, pious Iraqis in the heroic resistance. O sons of the one nation, direct your enmity toward the invaders. Do not let them divide you … Long live jihad (holy war) and the mujahideen against the invaders.”

But he said Iraqis should not blame the populations of the United States and its allies: “I urge you not to hate the peoples of the countries that committed aggression against us, but instead to differentiate between the decision-makers and the peoples.”