Bush: Dead or Alive, Saddam Loosening Grip on Iraqis
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 8, 2003 President Bush said today he doesn't know whether Saddam Hussein survived an April 7 American bombing. But, dead or alive, the Iraqi dictator is loosening his vise-grip on the people of Iraq.
A U.S. Central Command spokesman in Qatar said today that coalition forces had targeted "senior leaders" of the Iraqi regime in a bomb attack in the Baghdad suburb of al Mansour. Officials had nothing to add on the success of that mission.
"The only thing I know is (Hussein's) losing power," Bush said in remarks he made with British Prime Minister Tony Blair following a summit in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The president said Hussein's grip around the Iraqi people's throats is being loosened. "I can't tell you if all 10 fingers are off the throat (of the Iraqi people), but finger by finger, it's coming off," he said.
Bush said he and Blair discussed Iraq's future "beyond war and beyond tyranny."
"So much of our discussion today has focused on how we continue to get vital supplies of food, water and medicines to them, and how we help the process of transition to the day when Iraq is governed by the Iraqi people for the Iraqi people," Blair said.
Both leaders spoke of Iraq's political future. American officials have described at length how coalition military leaders will govern Iraq for a brief time until an interim Iraqi government can be formed. Bush and Blair today reiterated that coalition control will be short-lived.
"We'll move as quickly as possible to place governmental responsibilities under the control of an interim authority composed of Iraqis from both inside and outside the country," Bush said.
Iraqi expatriates living in the United States and other Western countries have worked closely with coalition leaders to lay the groundwork for an interim post-war government.
Bush and Blair said coalition forces won't have a permanent presence in Iraq.
"Our forces will not stay in Iraq a day longer than necessary," Blair said. "We will take on the legal and moral obligations that will fall to us as the forces on the ground to stabilize the country, to keep the basic services going, to protect civilian life."
He added that coalition control will transition to an interim government. From there, it will move to "a truly representative government which respects human rights and the rule of law, which spends Iraq's wealth not on palaces and weapons of mass destruction but on the well-being (and) prosperity of the people of Iraq."
Bush noted that the United Nations will have a "vital role" in providing humanitarian assistance and creating an interim government, but the Iraqi people are ultimately responsible for deciding who serves in the interim government and what form a permanent government takes.