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Iraqi President's Fate Unknown, Says Britain - 2003-03-22

Britain says the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is crumbling under the intense bombardment of coalition forces. Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon says he has no information on the fate of Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Hoon told a London news conference Saturday he could shed no light on whether Saddam Hussein is still alive, but he says the war will continue no matter what. "If the news of Saddam's death is confirmed, and that affects the resolve of the remaining elements of his regime, well and good," said Mr. Hoon. "But it will not affect our determination to continue to rid Iraq of those appalling elements, and that is central to our campaign objectives."

Mr. Hoon also said regular Iraqi troops are withdrawing from the southern city of Basra, but security forces are putting up resistance.

Britain's military chief of staff, Admiral Michael Boyce, says almost all of southern Iraq's oil wells had been wired with explosives, but coalition forces took control of them before they could be sabotaged.