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April 9, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
Blair: Remains of Saddam Regime Unclear
Britain's Blair Says It's Unclear What Remains of Saddam Hussein's Regime

The Associated Press


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LONDON April 9

Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday it was difficult to know what was left of the higher ranks of the Iraqi government, and who would be in position to surrender to advancing coalition forces.

"This conflict is not over yet," Blair added, addressing the House of Commons. "There are still some very difficult things to do. As we speak, there is still intense resistance ... among those parts of Saddam's regime that want to cling onto power."

Blair's spokesman said the prime minister had watched television images of U.S. troops entering central Baghdad and toppling a statue of Saddam, and was "delighted" at the reaction of the Iraqi people.

"It shows what the ordinary people thought of Saddam and just how much of a burden his rule has placed on them," said the spokesman, briefing reporters on customary condition of anonymity. "We have seen today the scales of fear falling from the people of Iraq."

Blair's office said the prime minister was expected to speak to President Bush later Wednesday to discuss the extraordinary scenes in the Iraqi capital.

A spokesman said Blair spoke with French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to update them on his talks with Bush in Belfast earlier this week.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said British forces will not stay in Iraq "a day longer than is necessary."

"We will remain with the Iraqis for as long as is necessary in order to support and encourage and sustain democratic representative government," he told Channel 4 News.

Straw also spoke with French counterpart Dominique de Villepin on Wednesday. They agreed that coalition troops are needed to secure Iraq, but de Villepin repeated French demands for a "central" United Nations role in rebuilding.

Blair's spokesman said Saddam's command and control structure apparently had collapsed in Baghdad but more hard fighting could lie ahead for coalition forces.

Asked whether victory had been achieved, he said: "I think it is premature, whenever there are still parts of the country that the coalition does not yet control and when the situation on the ground in Baghdad remains as fluid as it is."

But he said the coalition's caution should not detract from celebrations in Baghdad or the Iraqi people's "gratitude for lifting the burden of Saddam from their shoulders."

With a sense that victory is within sight, opposition Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith congratulated coalition forces for conducting "one of the most brilliantly executed campaigns of recent history."

Duncan Smith also praised Blair "for the role he has played, standing together with our American allies."

In Basra, where many residents celebrated the arrival of British troops by indulging in looting, Blair said British forces were doing their best to keep order.

"I think there is bound to be a certain amount of disorder, probably a certain amount of lawlessness in the aftermath of the collapse of Saddam's regime in places like Basra," Blair said.

He added that the city was not fully secure, and that commanders were taking care not to put troops at risk.

"Subject to that, they do believe that the situation is more under control today than it was yesterday," Blair said.


photo credit and caption:
An official portrait of Saddam Hussein lies broken and shot up by U.S. Army troops at a presidential palace in Baghdad, Iraq Wednesday, April 9, 2003.(AP Photo/John Moore)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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