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Rumsfeld: Saddam Hussein Increasingly Isolated - 2003-04-08


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says Saddam Hussein has lost control of much of Iraq and the leaders of his regime are increasingly isolated. Mr. Rumsfeld says the "circle is closing" on Saddam Hussein and other leaders of the regime and their "options are running out."

"As his regime collapses around him the question is asked: where is he? There are three possibilities. He is either dead or injured or not willing to show himself," says Mr. Rumsfeld. "We may not know if or where he is, but we do know that he no longer runs much of Iraq."

Secretary Rumsfeld says Saddam Hussein's regime is running out of real soldiers and soon "all that will be left will be war criminals."

Mr. Rumsfeld expressed optimism that the notorious Iraqi general, Ali Hassan al-Majid has been killed in a U.S. air strike on his home in southern Iraq. "We believe that the reign of terror of Chemical Ali has come to an end," he says. "To Iraqis who have suffered at his hand, particularly in the last few weeks in that southern part of the country, he will never again terrorize you or your families."

The general was known as "Chemical Ali" for ordering the use of poison gas against Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988. He was a first cousin of President Saddam Hussein and part of the government's inner circle. He was also entrusted with defending southern Iraq against coalition forces.

Ali Hassan al-Majid was also linked to the repression of Shi'ite Muslims in southern Iraq, and he was installed as governor of occupied Kuwait after Iraqi forces invaded in 1990.

Like Saddam Hussein, he comes from the northern city of Tikrit.

Responding to news reports that drums containing possible chemical weapons have been found, Secretary Rumsfeld urged caution, saying first reports on such findings tend to be wrong.

Other defense officials said Monday that the military was testing samples from a site in Iraq where the chemicals have been found. Those officials said testing at laboratories in the United States has to be complete before the presence of chemical weapons can be confirmed.

During his briefing, Mr. Rumsfeld insisted that the United States did not intend to indefinitely administer Iraq, and that the plan was to turn the reigns over to an Iraqi-run interim government as soon as possible.

In Mr. Rumsfeld's words, "the United States is not going to impose a government on Iraq."