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Bremer: Saddam Believed to be Alive, But Not Behind Attacks

Bremer: Saddam Believed to be Alive, But Not Behind Attacks

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- He's believed to be alive and probably hiding in Iraq, but Saddam Hussein is not orchestrating the daily attacks on American troops, says the top U.S. administrator in the occupied country.

L. Paul Bremer also said Americans should prepare for a long stay in Iraq.

"It's clear that, given the size of the task, we're going to be there for a while," he said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I don't know how many years."

A Pentagon advisory panel suggested last week that coalition troops will need to remain in Iraq for at least two to five years to back up fledgling, postwar Iraqi police and military organizations.

Not long before Bremer made the rounds of TV talk shows, two soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division were killed Sunday in an ambush in northern Iraq. That followed the death Saturday of an American soldier who was shot while guarding a bank in Baghdad.

The violence continued Monday when a soldier from the 1st Armored Division and his Iraqi interpreter were killed in a small arms and grenade attack in north Baghdad, a military spokesman said.

The deaths brought to more than 150 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in action since the March 20 start of the war.

Bremer said there's no evidence of any central control in the hit-and-run attacks. Instead, the former diplomat blamed a small group of well-trained killers, "who are basically trying to hold back the tide of history in Iraq."

While acknowledging an ongoing security problem, Bremer told CBS' "Face the Nation" it is limited to a small part of Iraq. "Most of the country is quiet," he said.

Seizing Saddam would help the situation on the ground, Bremer said. "The sooner we can either kill him or capture him, the better, because the fact that his fate is unknown certainly gives his supporters the chance to go around and try to rally support for him."

A top Democratic lawmaker said Saddam's reach may be much wider than U.S. officials have indicated.

"He's still alive and he controls that country," Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday."

"Not through popularity, but through fear of retribution. I mean, I just came back from the place and people won't talk to you. ... He's a big factor there," said Rockefeller.

Bremer, also on Fox, said despite the increasing attacks, the United States and its allies are making progress rebuilding Iraq.

On the security front, he said occupation authorities plan to start training a civil defense corps composed of armed Iraqis under U.S. military command.

Recruiting for a new Iraqi army and a police force has also begun.

As for daily living conditions, Bremer said the electricity is back on and should return to prewar levels in the whole country in the next six weeks or so.

For now, he urged patience. "We need to understand that this is a long-term process. The problem that we face is difficult, that is, reconstructing a country that really for 35 years was very badly managed, particularly on an economic basis."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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