His Jordan-based legal team said he made recommendations during his first meeting with one of his Iraqi lawyers, Khalil al-Dulaimi, last Thursday.

"The president asked about the Iraqi people and stressed the need for their unity," spokesman Ziad Khasawna said on Sunday.

Saddam chose a verse from the Quran, Islam's holy book, to stress the point: "Hold on to God's law and don't scatter", Khasawna reported.

"He also insisted that Iraq's religious leaders, of all factions, have a role and must bear the historical responsibility for what is happening to Iraq," he said.

"Our representative in Iraq told us that the president warned the people of Iraq and the Arabs to beware of the American scheme aimed at splitting Iraq into sectarian and religious divisions and weakening the (Arab) nation," said Bushra Khalil, a Lebanese member of the defence team.

"The president sent recommendations to the Iraqi people to remain united and not fall in the trap of America's slogans," she said. "He said Kurds, Arabs, Shia, Sunnis and Christians are all Iraqis who all have to stand united against the American plot."

"The president sent recommendations to the Iraqi people to remain united and not fall in the trap of America's slogans. He said Kurds, Arabs, Shia, Sunnis and Christians are all Iraqis who all have to stand united against the American plot"

Bushra Khalil,
member of defence team

Another lawyer, Adnan Dannawi, said that during the meeting Saddam asked to be briefed on developments in Iraq and was told by Dulaimi that the country is preparing to hold elections.

"At that point, the president said to Dulaimi the Iraqi people should 'be wary of this issue'," Dannawi said.

"The president is held in a three (metre) by five room that does not befit a president and he is completely cut off from the world," Khasawna said, adding however that Saddam was in good health and high spirits.

ICRC criticism

But Saddam complained about the International Committee of the Red Cross, saying they were not fulfilling their humanitarian role and that he had received only two letters from his family since being captured in December 2003.

The legal team, appointed by Saddam's wife Sajida and his daughters, said that during the meeting Saddam formally gave Dulaimi a power of attorney to be represented by the Jordan-based group, giving them full powers.

The lawyers also reiterated that the Iraq Special Tribunal, which wants to try Saddam and 11 of his aides on charges of crimes against humanity, was illegal and that the trial itself would be invalid.