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Saturday, 20 October, 2001, 20:44 GMT 21:44 UK
Saddam's surprise message
Saddam Hussein
Saddam: Trying to send his own political message
By the BBC's Caroline Hawley in Baghdad

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has for the first time offered condolences to the American people for those who died in the 11 September attacks.

He was replying to an e-mail from an American who appealed to him to take a stand toward removing terrorism, hunger and strife around the world.

I do not think your US administration deserves that Iraqis condole with it on what happened, unless it condoles with the Iraqi people on the death of 1.5 million Iraqis who it killed

Saddam Hussein
Iraq is the only Arab country not to have condemned the attacks.

Saddam Hussein's traditional Muslim message of condolence came in what appeared to be an unprecedented personal exchange with an American citizen, published by the Iraqi Information Ministry.

In it, a man called Christopher Love, who described himself as a computer engineer from Pennsylvania, urged the Iraqi leader to seize the moment and, in his words, side with the world.

Saddam Hussein's response came in a 10-page letter, in which he said that the people of Iraq were against all forms of fanaticism.

US 'fanaticism'

But he said Iraq had itself been subject to American fanaticism, referring to what he called a "harvest of death" caused by fighter jets and missiles, in addition to sanctions.

Attempting to explain the 11 September attack, Saddam Hussein wrote that Arabs and Muslims had been subjected to decades of American aggression, and that those who did not want to be harmed should not cause harm.

He said the US administration would only deserve condolences from the Iraqis when it apologised for the crimes that it committed against them.

Whatever the story behind the email from Christopher Love, Saddam Hussein is clearly trying to send his own political message.

It comes just days after George Bush described him as "an evil man", and at a time when many in Iraq expect that they could be the next target of American military action.

See also:

06 Oct 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Testing the mood in Iraq
18 Sep 01 | Media reports
Saddam tells West 'be wise'
04 Jan 01 | Middle East
Saddam Hussein profile
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