Saddam's new novel on sale in Japan

The manuscript for the book, titled "Akuma No Dance" ("Devil's Dance") in Japan, was carried out of Iraq by Saddam's eldest daughter, Raghad, when she fled to Jordan just before the U.S.-led invasion, according to Tokyo-based Tokuma Shoten Publishing Co.

Raghad previously said that her father finished the novel on March 18, 2003 - a day before the war began. Tokuma Shoten says it is the first publisher in the world to put out the novel, which is Saddam's fourth.

How the proceeds from Japan sales will be shared between publisher and author was not immediately known. Tokuma Shoten has printed a first run of 8,000 copies of the 256-page book, priced at the equivalent of US$14 (Ђ11).

Jordan last year banned publication of the novel, known there as "Get Out, Damned One," due to political concerns.

The former Iraqi leader is on trial in Baghdad for the death of 148 Shiites and the imprisonment of hundreds of others in a crackdown following a 1982 assassination attempt against him. He could face execution by hanging if convicted.

The translator of "Akuma No Dance," Itsuko Hirata, obtained the manuscript from one of Saddam's lawyers along with approval to translate the book into Japanese.

Hirata, who has written several books on Middle Eastern leaders, was quoted by Japan's Kyodo News agency as saying she believed Saddam expected to lose the looming war and wrote the novel "as a message aimed at raising morale among Iraqi people."

Hirata also told The Associated Press thatSaddam was an important witness to world history who should not be sentenced to death.