Britain's Observer newspaper has published letters which it said were written by former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz from inside a United States-run high-security camp outside Baghdad.

In the letters, hand-written in English and Arabic, Aziz pleads for international help to end his "dire situation". The former ally of Saddam Hussein says he is innocent and is being held illegally.

"I have been accused unjustly, but to date no proper investigation has taken place," Aziz writes in one of the letters, which the Observer says were scribbled on pages of his lawyer's diary as recently as last month.

"It is imper-ative that there is intervention into our dire situation and treatment. It is totally in contradiction to international law, the Geneva Convention and Iraqi law as we know it."

Aziz says he and his fellow inmates at Camp Cropper, near Baghdad - including Saddam - are not even allowed to see parcels and letters sent by their families.