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Iraqi Leadership in Disarray, says British Commander - 2003-03-23

Britain's military commander in the Iraq war says the Iraqi leadership is in significant disarray and the fate of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is largely immaterial.

The commander of British forces in the Gulf, Air Marshal Brian Burridge, says Saddam Hussein is becoming irrelevant, as the U.S. and British invasion of Iraq proceeds.

"It's probably unnecessary at this stage in the campaign to focus on him as one man. The key aspect is the regime itself," he stressed on British television.

"Once the regime recognizes that its days are up, then they will crumble. And while they are crumbling, others who for some years maybe have had designs on overthrowing the regime will probably develop greater levels of courage themselves. So we'll see a crumble and Saddam's place in that is largely becoming immaterial," said the British commander.

Air Marshal Burridge said Iraq's plans to defend Baghdad have probably been badly disrupted by the bombs and missiles that have targeted the Iraqi capital.

"I suspect they are in significant disarray at the moment," he said. "So their plans will be very hard for them to put into practice, possibly, but you can never tell and you know, military men, we never make promises about these things. It will take as long as it takes, and we take each problem as we see it."

Air Marshal Burridge said coalition troops have run into some pockets of elite Iraqi units who have fought fiercely outside the key southern port of Umm Qasr. The allies say they want to secure the port to bring in humanitarian aid and military supplies.

The British commander also commented upon the loss of a Royal Air Force plane believed shot down accidentally by an American missile Sunday. He called it a sad moment, but said the coalition must carry on with its military objectives.