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Letter Attributed To Saddam Calls On Iraqis To Rise Up

Letter Attributed To Saddam Calls On Iraqis To Rise Up

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CAIRO, Egypt (AP) A purported letter from Saddam Hussein published Wednesday in an Arabic-language newspaper in London urges Iraqis to "rise up" against occupation.

Al-Quds Al-Arabi, which has taken a pro-Saddam editorial line and blamed the Iraqi people for the toppling of the Iraqi leader, did not say how it obtained the letter attributed to Saddam, a copy of which was published on page 3.

To reporters familiar with other documents attributed to Saddam, neither the handwriting nor the signature appeared similar, but Al-Quds Al-Arabi said "sources close to Saddam" confirmed both were genuine.

In Washington, U.S. officials reacted with skepticism to the letter but declined to comment further.

The paper said the sources could not disclose more details "due to security considerations and circumstances surrounding his whereabouts."

"Rise up against the occupier and do not trust those who talk about Sunnis or Shiites," said the letter dated Monday -- Saddam's 66th birthday. "The only issue for your great Iraq now is occupation.

"There is no priority but to drive the infidel, criminal and cowardly occupier out. No hand has extended to him but those of the traitors and stooges."

The paper's editor, Abdel al-Bari Atwan, told Associated Press Television News, "I can't say 100 percent it is a statement by Saddam Hussein," but "we believe it is."

He said the letter arrived by fax, and he expected more messages from Saddam -- perhaps audio or video tapes.

Al Quds Al-Arabi published a letter Tuesday from a previously unknown group calling itself Iraqi Resistance and Liberation that claimed Saddam was alive and would deliver a message to his country within three days.

Saddam was targeted by cruise missiles March 20 in the opening salvo of the war. As U.S. troops converged on Baghdad, an American jet dropped "bunker buster" bombs on the al-Mansour neighborhood April 7 after Saddam was reportedly seen in the area.

A number of Iraqis claim to have seen Saddam and his son Odai in the nearby Azamiyah district two days later -- an appearance that was videotaped and broadcast by Abu Dhabi television. Some U.S. officials dispute the authenticity of that tape.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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