Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says U.S. officials are getting what he terms useful information from the interrogation of detained former Iraqi government figures.
Mr. Rumsfeld will not specify what information U.S. investigators have received in interrogations so far from senior Iraqi detainees.
But the U.S. defense secretary tells reporters at the Pentagon the information is useful. "You can be certain that the people who we have reason to believe have information are being interrogated by inter-agency teams and they are in fact providing information that is useful," he said.
Among the latest and most prominent of the detainees is former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, who surrendered to U.S. officials in Baghdad this week.
Mr. Rumsfeld hopes Mr. Aziz will also provide crucial information, perhaps on the fate of Saddam Hussein and his sons or the location of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons. "He clearly is a very senior person and was in that regime and we intend to discuss with him whatever it is he is willing to discuss with us," said Donald Rumsfeld.
Mr. Rumsfeld will not say where those among Iraq's 55 most wanted former officials who like Mr. Aziz have been taken into U.S. custody, are being held.
But he makes clear there are no plans to send either the prominent detainees or the 7,000 or so other Iraqi prisoners to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where terrorists from Afghanistan are being held at the U.S. Navy base.
Mr. Rumsfeld says it is more convenient and cost-effective to keep them in Iraq. "To the extent they have to be held for some period of time, it's a lot more convenient to hold them in Iraqi prisons than it is to build prisons in Guantanamo and transport them down there," he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Rumsfeld says suspected sites where Iraq may have hidden its chemical and biological weapons are being explored on a continuing basis.
But he announces no significant discoveries, saying a long road lies ahead and asserts only a small fraction of the number of potential sites have been visited.