Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the Iraqi people are losing their fear of what he calls a vicious regime as U.S.-led coalition troops make progress in liberating the country.

Mr. Rumsfeld stopped short of declaring victory in Iraq, noting fighting is continuing in some places and that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein still remains unaccounted for.

But he tells reporters at the Pentagon the scenes of jubilant celebration in Baghdad Wednesday make it a good day. He says Iraqis are clearly elated at the prospect of life without Saddam, who he characterizes as another failed dictator.

"We are seeing history unfold, events that will shape the course of a country, the fate of a people, and potentially the future of the region," he said. "Saddam Hussein is now taking his rightful place alongside Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Ceausescu in the pantheon of failed, brutal dictators, and the Iraqi people are well on their way to freedom."

Mr. Rumsfeld says again that U.S. forces have no intention of occupying Iraq. But he says the missions that still need to be carried out include finding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as well as accounting for the country's senior leaders.