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Unconditional surrender demanded of Iraqi regime

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- The only thing the coalition is willing to discuss with the leaders of the Iraqi regime is their unconditional surrender, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today.

To get an idea of the progress the coalition is making in Iraq, people must try to view the world as Saddam Hussein - if he's still alive - sees it, he said.

In northern Iraq, coalition special operations forces are working with local groups to bomb Republican Guard targets and otherwise harass Iraqi forces. The U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade is now at full-strength in the area and is providing security.

In the west, special operations forces are ensuring critical areas are held, and Iraqi forces are not able to fire surface-to-surface missiles at their neighbors.

In the south, coalition divisions are securing Basra, while still others are poised to take on Republican Guard forces before Baghdad.

Rumsfeld traced the actions of the first 12 days of combat. He said most people expected the operation would be much like Desert Storm in 1991.

"In that case, as you'll recall, it was a sustained 38-day air campaign, followed by a brief ground attack," Rumsfeld said. "In this case, the ground attack actually started before the air war, with thousands of special (operations) forces pouring into all regions of the country and a large force rolling across the Kuwaiti border into southern Iraq.

And the Iraqi people are seeing the regime is crashing down, Rumsfeld said. "The majority of Iraqis do not support Saddam Hussein's regime," he said. "Their obedience is based on fear. And that fear is beginning to slip away as coalition forces advance."

Rumsfeld said that the regime is using death squads to maintain the climate of fear among the people and to force men to fight. "They are vicious, to be sure, but they are now taking heavy losses," he said. "And the regime's tactics have been unable to slow or stop the coalition."

And in all this, where is Saddam? "The night before the ground war began, coalition forces launched a strike on a meeting of Iraq's senior command and control, and they have not been heard from since," he said. "The fact that Saddam Hussein did not show up for his televised speech today is interesting."

The secretary said the Iraqi regime is so desperate that officials are spreading rumors that the coalition has entered into a cease-fire negotiation with them. "Their goal is to try to convince the people of Iraq that the coalition does not intend to finish the job," he said.

"There are no negotiations taking place with anyone in Saddam Hussein's regime," Rumsfeld continued. "There will be no outcome to this war that leaves Saddam Hussein and his regime in power. Let there be no doubt. His time will end -- and soon. The only thing that the coalition will discuss with this regime is their unconditional surrender." (American Forces Press Service)

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