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U.S. doubts Saddam's taped speech is fresh

Fate of Iraqi leader unclear

From David Ensor
CNN Washington Bureau

Saddam Hussein in tape broadcast Monday on Iraqi TV
Saddam Hussein in tape broadcast Monday on Iraqi TV

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Saddam Hussein addresses his nation on Iraqi TV. (March 24)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. intelligence officials are looking "very skeptically" at a tape of Saddam Hussein broadcast Monday on Iraqi television, with one official saying "he said nothing to prove it could not have been taped earlier."

These officials say the fate of the Iraqi leader remains unclear.

Iraqi television later broadcast pictures of what it said was Saddam meeting Monday with his son Qusay and military advisers. And a leading government official said Saddam and his top aides are alive and in control of the government.

"We are all in control," Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said Monday.

But the first tape broadcast Monday did little to shed light on Saddam's whereabouts or his condition, the subject of much speculation since the initial "decapitation strike" on Baghdad last week.

"Reviewing the tape does not lead anybody to a conclusion that this is something fresh," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters at the White House.

U.S. officials noted the speech referred to the involvement of some Iraqi units against U.S. forces that have not, in fact, been involved. They point to "jump cuts" in the video suggesting the tape could have been recorded earlier and "doctored" to fit current circumstances.

"There are a number of things he could have commented on to prove he's alive and in control and he did not," one U.S. official said.

In the speech, Saddam asserted that the United States and its allies are "trapped" and Iraq was resisting "heroically."(Full story)

U.S. officials said they have rumors and reports of equal value suggesting the Iraqi leader is injured, uninjured or dead. "We just do not know," said one official.

Intelligence officials continue to say they believe Saddam was in a compound hit during the first strikes Thursday morning in Baghdad. A CIA spokesman said he had no comment on reports that telephone conversations intercepted in the area indicate that some neighbors believe they saw Saddam being carried out of the rubble on a stretcher.

Sources Monday refused comment on a report in Newsweek magazine stating that the United States was able to target Saddam himself because a member of his inner circle gave the CIA information about where he would be spending the night.

Thursday, however, the same officials noted that the strike on Saddam's compound "should cause him to worry now" that his trusted inner circle may have been penetrated.

Concerning the capture of some U.S. soldiers from the Army's 507th Maintenance Company, U.S. officials said Iraq's Fedayeen Saddam were involved. Officials said the group totals about 25,000, was founded in 1994 and is famed for brutality.

The Fedayeen do not wear uniforms, and live in their own homes throughout the country, officials said. Their primary purpose is to "bottle up civil unrest" during a crisis, an official said, but they are now being used "to make trouble for U.S. forces from the rear."

Their nominal leader is Uday Hussein, the Iraqi leader's oldest son. U.S. officials said they are unsure at this point whether Uday Hussein survived the strikes of Thursday morning in Baghdad.


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