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
"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.
|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)|
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