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LISBON, Portugal (AP) -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday it will take time to locate die-hard remnants of Saddam Hussein's deposed regime in Iraq.
The United States is talking to approximately three-dozen countries about assembling an international peacekeeping force for postwar Iraq, Rumsfeld said. But he also said that even after the force begins arriving in September there will be resistance from elements of Saddam's Baathist Party and other loyalists.
"Do I think that's going to disappear in the next month or two or three? No. Will it disappear when some two or three divisions of coalition forces arrive in the country? No," Rumsfeld said.
"It will take time to root out the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime and we intend to do it."
Rumsfeld spoke at a joint news conference with Portuguese Minister of Defense Paulo Portas.
The U.S. defense chief is on a four-day visit to Europe to thank nations that supported the U.S.-led war in Iraq -- and to ask for more postwar help to keep the peace there.
He said the failure of the U.S.-led coalition to prove that Saddam is dead may be fueling continued violence and resistance in the country.
"There are people who may fear that he could come back," Rumsfeld said Monday.
"If they fear he could come back, they might be somewhat slower in an interrogation to say what they know" and it could "give heart" to some from Saddam's Baathist Party who hope "that they can take back that country."
Rumsfeld said 41 countries are considering assistance to Iraq and some half dozen have committed forces. He didn't name them, but he said the first forces should be ready in September.
"We have a very aggressive effort to bring in forces from other countries in sizable numbers," Rumsfeld said.
After his meeting with Portas, Rumsfeld headed off to Albania to meet with government officials there who also supported the effort to oust the Saddam government.
He is to end his tour at a NATO meeting in Brussels, but not before stopping Wednesday in Munich for the 10th anniversary of the joint German-U.S. George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. The Marshall Center was founded in 1993 to stabilize and strengthen post-cold war Europe through education and training of military and civilian officials.
"The NATO meeting ... provides an opportunity for me to thank some friends and allies -- people who have been helpful. Clearly, we will be doing that in Portugal and Albania," Rumsfeld said.
"At the 10th anniversary of the Marshall center, there will be ... a good number of ministers of defense also helpful and cooperative who are graduates."
Portugal is looking for a way to re-equip the outdated Portuguese armed forces despite a recession and cash problems. It is trying to negotiate the purchase of six new Hercules C-130J transport planes from U.S. company Lockheed Martin. It also wants Iraqi reconstruction contracts, and has lobbied for a NATO regional command headquarters to be installed at Oeiras, outside Lisbon.
Portugal did not provide military help for the Iraq war, but it plans to send some 100 police there to help with security and humanitarian aid distribution.
Albania just held a joint exercise with U.S. forces aimed at boosting the ex-communist country's ability to respond to humanitarian crises and other emergencies.
European giants France and Germany led the continent's opposition to the U.S.-British military action; states lending diplomatic support included Denmark, Italy, Latvia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania and Croatia.
Rumsfeld said he did not doubt that intelligence on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction will prove correct, despite the failure after two months to find the weapons the Bush administration said were the rationale for the war.
Rumsfeld said resistance to U.S. forces was not nationally organized, but confined to certain regions.
He blamed violence in the region from Baghdad north to Saddam's hometown of Tikrit on Saddam loyalists who survived because there were relatively few battles in that area.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)