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US Commander Says Finding Saddam More Difficult Than Anticipated - 2003-11-29

The U.S. general in charge of coalition forces in Iraq is appealing to the Iraqi people to help troops find Saddam Hussein. After months of intensive search, the general acknowledges finding the deposed dictator has been more difficult than anticipated.

Nearly eight months after U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein and his regime, U.S. officials say the ousted dictator remains as elusive as ever.

In Baghdad Saturday, coalition forces commander Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez conceded that U.S. troops alone may not be able to find Saddam.

"I think it's a statement of reality," he said. "In fact, it is difficult to find him, given that I haven't found him, killed him or captured him. And I need the Iraqi people's help. And, together, we'll find him, we'll capture him, or we'll kill him."

The general says a blanket of fear exists among the Iraqi people that Saddam Hussein may come back to power.

Even though a $25 million reward awaits anyone with information leading to his capture, General Sanchez says, the fear many Iraqis still feel is keeping many of them from coming forward with information on his potential whereabouts.

In a recent interview with a French magazine, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld likened the search for Saddam to looking for a needle in a haystack. He says that he believes Saddam is alive and receiving help from supporters to survive.

The U.S. military blames Saddam loyalists for most of the attacks against coalition forces in Iraq. But Mr. Rumsfeld says he does not believe Saddam is organizing the attacks himself, because he is too busy trying to keep from being discovered.

At least 75 U.S. soldiers have been killed by hostile fire in November alone, making it the deadliest month for Americans since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began on March 20.

Insurgents have also stepped up their violent campaign against Iraqis working with the coalition. General Sanchez says that, in the past 32 days, insurgents targeted civilian officials 74 times, and have attacked Iraqi security forces more than 80 times, including several deadly suicide bombings.

In recent days, however, the U.S. military says, the number of anti-coalition attacks has fallen 30 percent. Officials attribute the decline to a two-week-long series of raids and bombings the military has conducted in central and northern Iraq, aimed at curbing the insurgency.