Dear Mad Butcher ... Perhaps not. Dear Mr Hussein, here is a remarkable offer

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The Independent Online
EVERYONE hopes that Kofi Annan will fly to Baghdad with a note from the UN to sort out Saddam Hussein. However, Kofi is not exactly beating a path to his door. And this is for a good reason. The good reason is that it takes a lot of time to work out the best wording of a note from the UN to Saddam Hussein.

I mean, for a start, how do you address him? As "Dear Mr Hussein"? Or "Dear Saddam"? Or "Dear Mad Butcher of Baghdad"?

And even if you work out the best opening, what kind of letter do you then write to him?

Just how tricky the whole thing is is shown by the many drafts through which that note has already gone. Some of these drafts are available on the Internet, and for those of you unfortunate enough to be without a weblog*, I bring you today some of the first versions of that note to Saddam Hussein.

1. Dear Saddam, This is just to introduce myself. My name is Kofi Annan, and I am the new Secretary General of the United Nations. I notice from our books that we haven't seen you at one of our meetings for a long time, and your subscription is now well overdue. I wondered if I might stop by and talk about this and other problems? yours sincerely ...

2. Dear Mr Hussein, As the breadwinner in your family, do you ever worry about what might happen if you were struck down by a heart attack? Or even worse, by a bomb that fell suddenly out of the sky and destroyed you along with your presidential palace? Well, we at United Nations Retirement Funds can help you with this sort of problem - and before it happens! ... All you have to do is ...

3. Dear Saddam, I represent an organisation called the United Nations, which is currently in your area at the moment. We specialise in weapons inspections, location of biological war tools, location of landmines, etc, and we would be prepared to do an ABSOLUTELY FREE inspection of your country to check on warfare potentiality. All we would need is unlimited access for a period. You would receive a free copy of our report and we would keep one ourselves. A representative will be calling soon to discuss this FREE offer ...

4. Dear Saddam Hussein, Hello! I am the new visiting pastor of the local United Nations Church, and I would like to make myself known on a one- to-one basis so that we can discuss the personal problems with neighbours that crop up at any time ...

5. Dear Mr Hussein, This letter is part of a chain that has been in existence now for THIRTEEN YEARS, and if you break that chain you will bring CATASTROPHES AND DISASTERS upon yourself. This is serious. All you have to do to avert these DISASTERS AND CATASTROPHES is to write at the bottom of the letter "I renounce all use of chemical and biological weapons" and send it on to the next name in the chain, who is Kofi Annan, c/o United Nations, New York ...

6. Dear Mr Hussein, I am delighted to be able to tell you that you may already have won $10,000,000,000 in a Lifting of Embargo Superdraw! Yes, you could be the lucky winner in this Lifting of Embargo Superdraw, which could win you $10,000,000,000 in lifted embargoes! And all you have to do is send the enclosed envelope back! Yes, that's all you have to do! Oh, and also sign the enclosed form, saying that you don't mind anyone coming in and inspecting your weapons sites! That's it! That's ALL you have to do to be a winner, Mr Hussein! But don't forget - this has to be done by the end of the month! Otherwise we will kill you. Good luck, Mr Hussein!

7. Dear Mr Hussein, We are delighted to tell you that you have been selected by the United Nations Visa Card Unit for a MasterLoan offer of up to ten billion dollars! Just think of all the things you could do with ten billion dollars! New roads ... new schools ... new books for the new schools ... new packets of spaghetti for the new schools for little Iraqi children to make kindergarten pasta pictures with, to take home to their mummy and daddy, so that their mummy and daddy say, "Hey! This is good! Thanks to Saddam Hussein's insane foreign policy we are being starved, but now we can save our lives by cooking and eating our children's kindergarten art!"

Interested? We thought you would be! So send for details of the United Nations Visacard Masterloan Aid Plan NOW.

*Weblog. This is a new Internet word I have made up, which I hope will catch on. If it does, I will work out a meaning for it later.