Saddam Hussein said in a letter released Friday that President Bush and pro-Israel groups lied to Americans to justify the Iraq war, and he added that Iran "and its agents" helped facilitate the aggression.

Saddam also urged Americans to "save your country and leave Iraq" in a letter written in prison to the American people and released by his lawyers in Jordan.

"I see that officials of your administration are still lying to you and they still do not give you a true explanation for the reasons that motivated them to rush on the road of aggression against Iraq," Saddam wrote.

Saddam said seven years of U.N. inspections failed to find evidence that Iraq was still trying to build weapons of mass destruction.

"They also exploited the so-called war on terrorism which prevailed in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks" to claim a link between Iraq and al-Qaida, Saddam said.

The real reason for the war was to prevent Iraq from pursuing the "legitimate aspirations to develop its economy, culture and civilization," he said.

"They also wanted to achieve an important Zionist objective and to gain ground within their own constituency. Iran and its agents played a dirty role in decorating and facilitating the aggression."

He said the war had tarnished America's "reputation and esteem" around the world.

"Look at the American citizen, who was used to traveling anywhere he liked and being welcomed in any country he visited. Nowadays, an American cannot walk outside America unless he has a mine detector. The Department of the State issues one warning after another to inform you about the countries that have become dangerous for you."

He said the loss of prestige was due to the "reckless behavior of your government, pushed by Zionism and influential centers of power which led to the commission of these crimes and scandals in order to attain certain interests which do not include the interest of the American people."

Saddam said most Americans could not question U.S. strategy before the war began because "the Zionist people within the (pro-Israel) lobby that was pushing for war" was "deceiving you so you were confused and lost the ability to see the truth as it was."

Now, Saddam said the American people must decide whether to "allow the killing machine to continue grinding the flesh of both the Iraqis and the Americans" or to act "decisively to stop it."

The letter was released three days before Saddam's trial resumes. Saddam and seven others have been on trial since Oct. 19 for the deaths of Shiite Muslims in a crackdown that followed a 1982 assassination attempt against the Iraqi leader in Dujail.

Saddam and three others have been refusing food since July 7 to demand better security for defense lawyers. Three of them have been slain since the trial began.