Saddam Hussein tells Iraqis that their "liberation" is at hand

Saddam Hussein has told his countrymen that Iraq's "liberation is at hand" and called on insurgents to be merciful with their enemy, according to an open letter obtained Monday.

In the letter, dictated to his lawyers, Saddam also urges Iraqis to set aside sectarian and ethnic differences and focus instead on driving U.S. forces out of Iraq.

"The hour of liberation is at hand, God willing, but remember that your near-term goal is confined to freeing your country from the forces of occupation and their followers and not to be preoccupied in settling scores," Saddam writes in the Arabic-language letter, which is dated Sunday and signed by "Saddam Hussein al-Majid, President and commander-in-chief of the holy warrior armed forces."

Saddam's chief defense lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, said the former president dictated the letter to him during a four-hour meeting in a Baghdad detention center on Saturday. Al-Dulaimi typed the letter on Sunday.

Al-Dulaimi said during the meeting, they discussed Saddam's two trials in which he is facing charges arising from the deaths of 148 Shiites from the town of Dujail in the 1980s and genocide against the Kurds in 1987-88 offensive, codenamed Operation Anfal.

The lawyer declined to be more specific about the talks, which were attended by Saddam's other lawyers, including former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark.

The verdict and possible sentences against Saddam and seven co-defendants in the Dujail case will be handed down on Nov. 5, the chief investigating judge Raid Juhi said Monday, reports AP.

Saddam's genocide trial against the Kurds began on Aug. 21. The trial, of which 15 sessions have been held so far, is due to resume on Tuesday.

In the three-page letter, Saddam says Iraqis were "living the most difficult period in history because of the occupation, killing, destruction and looting."

Responding to fears that the country is on the verge of breaking apart, Saddam writes that he yearned for a "great unified Iraq, which is not split by any color, segment or allegation."