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Iraq Government Crumbling, says Blair - 2003-04-09

Britain says the Iraqi government is crumbling quickly and it is difficult to know who is left in the leadership who could surrender to coalition forces.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair told Parliament there could be more hard fighting in Iraq, but the Iraqi government of President Saddam Hussein is obviously collapsing.

Mr. Blair said that at this point he would not know who could surrender on Saddam Hussein's behalf. "It is extremely difficult, as we speak, to know what is left of the governing higher ranks of Saddam's regime," said the British leader.

But Mr. Blair also cautioned Parliament that it is too early to celebrate the definitive defeat of Saddam Hussein. "I should point out ... that this conflict is not, however, over yet. There are still some very difficult things to do," stressed Mr. Blair. "And as we speak there is still intense resistance. Not broad spread amongst the Iraqi people, but certainly still amongst those parts of Saddam's regime that want to cling on to power."

But the chief opposition leader in Parliament, Iain Duncan Smith of the Conservative Party, sounded triumphant in hailing what he called "one of the most brilliantly executed campaigns of recent history."

"I congratulate the prime minister, and I would like to take this opportunity to do so for the role that he has played, standing together with our American allies in liberating the Iraqi people and ousting this evil dictator," said Mr. Duncan Smith.

Following Mr. Blair's appearance, his treasury chief, Gordon Brown, confirmed to Parliament that the war will cost Britain about $4.5 billion. Mr. Brown's budget also includes $450 million for domestic counter-terrorism operations.