The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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President hints at democracy long haul

Washington, April 25 (Reuters): President George W. Bush said yesterday there was some evidence suggesting Saddam Hussein might be dead and conceded that it could take as long as two years to bring democracy to Iraq.

In an interview with NBC’s Tom Brokaw, Bush said there would be no declaration about the fate of the deposed Iraqi President without “a lot of evidence. Bush launched the Iraq war on March 19 with a surprise air strike on a compound where Saddam and his sons Uday and Qusay were believed to be.

“As the intelligence got richer, I got more confidence with the notion that Saddam would, in fact, be there,” Bush said, adding that the US intelligence source on the ground in Baghdad “felt like we got Saddam.”

“People will wonder if Saddam Hussein is dead or not. There’s some evidence that, that says that suggests he might be,” Bush said.

“We would never make that declaration until we were more certain, but the person who helped direct the attacks believes that Saddam at a very minimum was severely wounded.”

US officials have repeatedly said they do not know what happened to Saddam after two air strikes targeted him, because a variety of intelligence information suggests both that he was killed and that he survived.

Bush has declined to declare the war over in Iraq even as the US seeks to put together a new governing authority amid appeals by fundamentalist Shias for US forces to leave now.

He said US forces were laying the foundation for democracy and “we want to leave as soon as we’ve accomplished our mission.” Asked if that could take as long as two years, Bush replied: “It could ...or less. Who knows'”

Bush also said the US had sent a message to Iran to stay out of Iraqi politics.

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