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DOHA, Qatar (AP) -- U.S. forces have an important tool at their disposal as they try to crack the mystery of Saddam Hussein's whereabouts: a sample of the Iraqi dictator's DNA.
Gen. Tommy Franks, the U.S. commander in Iraq, said Sunday the genetic material would be checked against DNA taken from bodies found in the aftermath of coalition missile and bomb strikes.
"The appropriate people with the appropriate forensics are doing checks you would find appropriate in each of the places where we think we may have killed regime leadership," Franks told CNN.
He acknowledged a positive match might be hard to get, particularly if remains have been removed.
"But what you should know, we have the forensics capability to chase these things down, and we'll chase them down, every one of them, all the way," he said.
Franks said coalition forces also have DNA from other top Iraqi leaders. He did not explain how the DNA was obtained. It can be culled from a wide range of sources, including licked envelopes.
Asked on "ABC This Week" whether he believed Saddam was still alive, Franks said he wasn't sure.
"Until I see convincing proof that he's dead, we're going to continue to look," Franks said.
Although there was no sign of Saddam, Franks confirmed that Marines had begun entering Saddam's hometown, Tikrit, the last major city where Iraqi forces have been eluding coalition troops. He said "there was not any resistance" as American troops moved on the city Sunday.
Franks said other Iraqi leaders had been taken into custody and were being held in western Iraq. But he declined to say how high-ranking they were.
Overall, Franks said, U.S. troops were still finding pockets of resistance, including in Baghdad, where U.S. troops had divided the city into about 60 zones.
"Probably 10-15 of the zones we're not sure about yet, and we expect to find groups of five to 25 hardcore folks," he told Fox News.
He said the holdouts in Baghdad included Republican Guard soldiers, Fedayeen militiamen, Special Security Organization gunmen and "a number" of foreigners, specifically Syrians.
"They have come in as mercenaries. They have been paid by the Iraqis. We have seen recruiting material," Franks told CNN. "And they're employed as everything from suicide bombers to small group hit squads."
When asked whether Syria could have prevented their arrival, Franks told Fox he believed that "any nation that wants to control its borders can do so." But he stopped short of accusing the Syrian government of sponsoring the fighting by its citizens.
Franks said many of the coalition's objectives have been met.
"One of them, to be sure, is to remove the regime, and we believe that this regime is no longer in charge," he told CNN. "In fact, it is an ex-regime."
However, he said other objectives were still to be achieved, among them controlling weapons of mass destruction and finding terrorist associations. In addition, he told CNN, is the need to create a state "where Iraqi people have a government that is able to function in a way that the Iraqi people want it to function."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)