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Cheney: Iraq regime collapse will be milestone in terror war

No timeline on fighting in Iraq

Cheney cautioned Wednesay there is
Cheney cautioned Wednesay there is "a lot of work to do" before the Iraqi regime's power is extinguished.

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Iraqis celebrated in the streets around Baghdad cheering the apparent fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. (April 9)
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NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- The apparent fall of Saddam Hussein's regime is an important milestone in the fight to break the alliance between terrorists and the states that support them, Vice President Dick Cheney said Wednesday.

"In downtown Baghdad this morning we are seeing evidence of the collapse of any central regime authority," Cheney told members of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

He cautioned that there is "a lot of work to do" before the regime's power has been extinguished, but when that is accomplished, he said, a source of violence and instability in that part of the world will be removed.

Cheney said the war on terror continues on three fronts: law enforcement, intelligence, and military action, such as that taken against Iraq.

"Containment does not work against a rogue state that possesses weapons of mass destruction and chooses to secretly deliver them to its terrorist allies," he said. "The chemical and biological weapons that Saddam Hussein is known to have produced are the very instruments that terrorists are seeking."

The vice president would not put a timeline on the fighting in Iraq.

"As we meet this morning, I cannot predict with certainty how soon this war will be over although I am pleased, as is everyone else, to see the reports coming out of Baghdad today," he said.

Cheney, chafing at criticism that has come from some Arabs, said the United States has gone to war on a number of occasions to protect Muslims.

He said he hoped the Arab world would come to judge that what has been done in Iraq was necessary.

Saddam has killed at least a million Muslims -- half of those his own people, the vice president charged.

The United States and its allies, rather than the United Nations, will play the central role in keeping the peace and maintaining security in postwar Iraq, Cheney said Wednesday.

"We are not there as occupiers. ... We have no interest in maintaining forces there a minute longer than is necessary," he said.

The U.N. does have a "prominent role" to play, he conceded, but said it lies more in the humanitarian realm.

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