Saddam sees role as martyr to the Arab cause, letter shows

The letter was allegedly delivered through the International Committee of the Red Cross to an old friend now living in Jordan. Those who made the letter public said the man refused to be identified. It is believed to have been the first letter since Saddam was captured in December 2003 sent to someone other than a family member.

"My soul and my existence is to be sacrificed for our precious Palestine and our beloved, patient and suffering Iraq," the letter reads.

Tayseer Homsi, secretary general of the Jordanian Arab Baath Socialist Party, said the missive had been delivered through the ICRC to an " independent Jordanian political figure". The ICRC said that it was checking the authenticity of the letter. Saddam and other such political prisoners to whom the ICRC has access are allowed to write letters only to members of their families.

Saddam is expected to stand trial in Iraq this autumn on charges that could bring the death penalty. His letter appears to include his reflections on that possible fate. "Life is meaningless without the considerations of faith, love and inherited history in our nation," reads one passage. "It is not much for a man to support his nation with his soul and all he commands because it deserves it since it has given us life in the name of God and allowed us to inherit the best."

The letter concludes with the exhortation: "My brother, love your people, love Palestine, love your nation, long live Palestine,"

The Jordanian Baath party, which publicised the letter and espouses an ideology similar to Saddam's now-defunct Baath party, has no links to Iraq. Mr Homsi said the letter's recipient gave his party a copy of the letter two days ago."He's an old friend of Saddam; he's not a member of our party nor is he a party functionary," Mr Homsi said.

Iraq is preparing for several trials, the first of which involves Saddam's alleged role in the 1982 massacre of an estimated 150 Shias in Dujail, north of Baghdad, in retaliation for an assassination attempt on the former leader.