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US admits failure to find Saddam

Baghdad, April 28 (Reuters): A top US military commander in Iraq said today his forces were following up leads to the whereabouts of ousted President Saddam Hussein and his sons but had so far failed to find the fugitives.

Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, said there had been reports of sightings on the streets, “not Saddam but some of his sons are reported to have been seen, but we’ve not found any of them yet”. He added: “We’re following up these leads but there’s nothing yet on Saddam.”

Earlier, a US newspaper reported that Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s former deputy Prime Minister, told US interrogators that Saddam had survived two airstrikes launched to kill him.

Aziz, the most recognisable of the 13 former Iraqi officials known to be in American custody, surrendered to US forces last Thursday. He was number 43 on their list of 55 most-wanted members of Saddam’s administration.

Citing a senior defence official, USA Today reported that Aziz, who is being questioned at an undisclosed location, said he had seen Saddam alive after the March 19 and April 7 airstrikes on Baghdad targeting the former leader.

US war commander General Tommy Franks said yesterday Aziz was providing a lot of information to US intelligence interrogators. He did not elaborate.

”What we don't know is the veracity of it. It will take time,” Franks was quoted as saying.

Questioned about Aziz on Monday, Blount told Reuters:“He is being held in Baghdad. He is being questioned right now and the indications right now are that he is cooperating”.

Asked what would happen to Aziz, an urbane, silver-haired man who acted for years as Saddam's chief apologist abroad, Blount said:”I'm not sure what the disposition will be with him and others we are holding.

”The disposition will be determined in the future. For now they're going to be held for a while.”

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