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Bush Celebrates Baghdad's Fall - 2003-04-12

President Bush says Saddam Hussein has lost power in Iraq, and U.S. troops are moving to fill the void by providing security, food, and medicine. But looting continues in Baghdad and several other areas.

With the rule of Saddam Hussein passing into history, President Bush says, the world will always remember this week's first images of a nation released from what he calls "decades of tyranny and fear."

His weekly radio address celebrates Baghdad's fall, while warning that coalition troops may still face hard fighting against loyalists along the Syrian border and in Saddam's hometown north of the capital.

"The nightmare of Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq is ending," the president said. "Soon, the good and gifted people of Iraq will be free to choose their leaders, who respect their rights and reflect their character. In all that is to come, they will have the goodwill of the entire world, and they will have the friendship of the people of the United States."

France, Russia, and Germany want the United Nations to take the lead in rebuilding Iraq, and the three countries' leaders emphasized that at a summit in Saint Petersburg that ended Saturday. The threat of a French veto blocked U.N. approval for the Iraqi invasion three weeks ago. France, Russia, and China said they wanted to give U.N. weapons inspectors more time to disarm Iraq peacefully.

Meeting in Northern Ireland this week, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed that the United Nations will play a "vital" role, but chiefly through humanitarian efforts.

The leading role will be for countries that joined the fight, as Mr. Bush says they now move toward increasing security and helping to establish an interim Iraqi authority leading toward new elections.

"As Saddam's regime of fear is brought to an end, the people of Iraq are revealing the true hopes they have always held," he said. "It should surprise no one that Iraqis, like all people, resent oppression and welcome their own freedom. It should surprise no one that in every nation and every culture, the human heart desires the same good things: dignity, liberty, and a chance to build a better life."

White House officials say the president's reaction to the fall of Saddam Hussein is tempered by the prospect of further coalition casualties as fighting continues.

U.S. troops are preparing to move against the last major stronghold of loyalists in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, 150 kilometers north of Baghdad, after days of U.S. aircraft bombing Republican Guard positions.