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Rumors of Saddam Capture Spark Flury of Questions at Pentagon

Stock market rumors that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been captured have sparked a flurry of questions at the Pentagon.

Pentagon officials are confident that coalition forces are closing in on the fugitive ex-Iraqi leader. But asked about rumors that he has already been taken captive, Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz of the Pentagon's Joint Operations Staff, said he has nothing to tell reporters. "The short answer is I have no information on that," he said.

Many reporters consider that the kind of answer officials often give when they want to conceal the truth.

But acting Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita denied anyone is trying to be intentionally evasive. "There's just nothing more to report. We're not trying to be evasive. We're simply trying to state what we have at the moment," he said.

Still the two senior defense officials admit U.S. led coalition forces are getting better and better intelligence information about the former Iraqi leader's movements and they say they remain confident Saddam Hussein will be found.

That in turn is raising questions about whether American troops will make an effort to capture him or whether he will be killed.

General Schwartz says that is a decision that will be made by commanders at the scene.

And Mr. Di Rita said Saddam Hussein, if he is cornered, may be the one who decides his own fate. He notes the former Iraqi leaders two sons died in a shoot-out with U.S. troops after refusing to surrender. "In many cases, it's the subject of the pursuit that makes the decision. In the case of Uday and Qusay, they made the decision not to come out alive because they decided to fight back," he said.

The exchange at the Pentagon came the same day a new audio tape was broadcast by an Arabic-language television channel, purportedly from Saddam Hussein in which he pays tribute to his sons.