FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE, AUG. 8 -- Liberian President Samuel K. Doe, tightly bottled up in his fortified seaside mansion in Monrovia as battling rebel forces struggle to overthrow him, pleaded with President Bush to send U.S. military forces to help end the conflict and attributed the nation's suffering partly to his inexperience as a political leader, according to an unusually frank and desperate letter he sent to the White House earlier this summer.

"My relationship with my country might be likened in some respects to that of a man who loves his wife very much but at times is tempted to be unfaithful," Doe wrote in the six-page letter, a copy of which was obtained from former Liberian government sources who have defected to Sierra Leone.

"I realize that people have said that I have been driven by power, greed or other unhealthy desires but these have not been my primary motivations. If I have failed in regards at times, I ask for the forgiveness of my people."

The letter, typewritten on official stationary bearing the executive mansion seal, signed by Doe and dated June 4, constitutes a rambling explanation of Doe's view of the civil war, his sudden rise to power in 1980 after a military coup and a desperate appeal for help in which he likened Liberia's relationship to the United States as that of a stepchild to a parent.

"Our capital is named after your President Monroe. Our flag is a replica of yours. Our laws are patterned after your laws. We in Liberia have always considered ourselves 'stepchildren' of the United States. We implore you to come help your stepchildren who are in danger of losing their lives and their freedom."

The letter, sent by facsimile to Liberia's maritime office in Reston, Va., for delivery to the White House, was written at a time when rebels of the National Patriotic Front were about a dozen miles from Monrovia and advancing.

Since that time, the rebels have entered the city in force but split into two competing factions, both within a few minutes' drive of the mansion. A third military force, a contingent of 235 U.S. marines, also entered Monrovia to protect American property and evacuated civilians last weekend. Throughout it all, Doe has remained barricaded behind the walls of the Israeli-built mansion.

As leader of what widely was considered one of the most corrupt and brutal regimes in modern Africa, one that received hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military and economic assistance during the last decade, Doe came to power as a 29-year-old army sergeant only because "the coup perpetrators could not agree about who the new leader should be and I happened to carry the highest rank," he wrote in the letter to Bush. "I had a high school education and knew nothing about government."

Recalling the executions of dozens of former government officials after his rise to power, Doe wrote, "Mr. President, it is difficult, I understand, for you to understand why so often Africans resort to the violent overthrow of their government. . . . I did not personally order the executions which shocked the American people. These events occurred during a period of great stress."

Doe also appeared regretful for the manner in which Liberia's 1985 elections were contested. Doe retained power despite widespread charges by domestic and international human rights activists that the polls were blatantly rigged.

Doe recognized in the letter to Bush that the elections "were criticized by many Western countries but {they} also had their positive side. Experience should permit us to greatly improve."

The Liberian leader compared his misdeeds to those of former U.S. president Richard M. Nixon. Referring to Nixon's recently published autobiography, Doe wrote that the former president "details certain of his actions which he now regrets and this finally has allowed the American people to focus on the good things in his presidency and to push the bad to the back of their minds.

"I hope people will forgive me for any wrongs I have committed and focus on the good things that I have attempted to accomplish."