Ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has written a letter to the Iraqi people in which he says he offers himself as a "sacrifice" when he goes to the gallows.

Saddam's defense team confirmed that the letter, released Wednesday, is genuine. In it, Saddam calls for unity among the Iraqi people.

Tuesday, an Iraqi appeals court upheld the death sentence against Saddam for crimes against humanity, and said he should be hanged within 30 days.

Last month, an Iraqi court sentenced Saddam to hang for ordering the execution of 148 Shi'ite men from Dujail after a failed assassination attempt against him in the town in 1982.

Many Shi'ites celebrated the ruling. But Saddam's once dominant Baath party, some of whose members are now in exile, said it would retaliate against American interests if Saddam is put to death.

The White House described the appeals court decision as "an important milestone" in Iraqi efforts to establish "the rule of law."

Saddam and six co-defendants are being tried separately on charges of genocide for a 1988 military campaign, Anfal, against the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Prosecutors say 180,000 Kurds were killed in that campaign.

U.S. forces captured Saddam near his hometown of Tikrit in December 2003, eight months after the U.S.-led invasion that ousted him from power.