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Bush: Saddam 'no longer in power'

Baghdad
U.S. soldiers walk near a massive arch of swords at Saddam Hussein's military parade grounds Friday in Baghdad.

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Widespread looting, fires and lawlessness in Baghdad.
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Iraqi soldiers in northern Iraq are captured by Kurdish fighters then released.
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The USS Portland steams into port after delivering Marines and equipment to Kuwait.
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U.S. forces work to restore order in Baghdad amid looting and sporadic gunfire.
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CNN's Alessio Vinci reports on the U.S. Marines as they move across Iraq.
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PENTAGON BRIEFING, FRIDAY

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

• Warns Syria to keep its borders restricted in both directions, preventing Saddam Hussein and his top aides from leaving Iraq or anti-U.S. Arab militants from entering it.

• Calls looting in Baghdad and other cities is understandable, given "decades of repression." Adds that U.S. and non-U.S. security personnel should help restore calm in the coming days.

• Suggests U.S.-led military forces will not find weapons of mass destruction without locating the right people who have information about their whereabouts.

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(CNN) -- President Bush said Friday the priority of U.S.-led military forces in Iraq now is "to rid the Iraqi people of any vestiges" of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Bush, speaking at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, outside Washington, said he was unsure whether Saddam is dead or alive, but "I do know he's no longer in power."

In Iraq, looting and disorder have gripped Baghdad and other cities in the absence of civil authorities. The U.S. military was moving in special military units to provide security and they should arrive in the coming days, Bush administration officials said.

After nightfall, fires raged at several buildings in Baghdad, including a bank and the Ministry of Planning.

U.S. Marine officers were trying to persuade civilian police and firefighters to return to their posts, but they showed little inclination to do so, military officials told CNN.

The Pentagon approved a plan Friday under which the U.S. military would ask other nations to send non-military police forces to Iraq, officials said. The plan makes clear that these will not be military combat units.

Officials said they had always planned to ask other countries to provide security forces, but could not do so until most of the combat was over.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said looting was not uncommon for countries that experience significant social upheaval. "Stuff happens," he told reporters Friday in Washington.

The looting in Baghdad was a result of "pent-up feelings" of oppression, Rumsfeld told reporters, adding that it would subside as Iraqis adjusted to life without Saddam.

Rumsfeld said the looting was not as bad as some media reports have suggested and that there was no major crisis in the capital city, which lacks a central governing authority. (Full story)

Military issues most-wanted list

In Qatar, U.S. military leaders issued a most-wanted list of former Iraqi leaders they said must "be brought to justice."

Coalition troops in the field have been given a list of 52 former regime leaders in several forms -- one of them a deck of playing cards with images of the people's faces and job descriptions -- "to ease identification when contact does occur," Brig. Gen Vincent Brooks said Friday.

The leaders would be "pursued, killed or captured," he told reporters at U.S. Central Command headquarters. (Full story)

Brooks said coalition forces had seen evidence that members of the Iraqi government were trying to escape the country and that special operations forces destroyed five small planes hidden north of Tikrit, Saddam's ancestral homeland and a stronghold of the former ruling Baath party. (Full story)

The Adnan Division of the Republican Guard was charged with providing security for Tikrit, but it has been heavily worn down by U.S.-led air strikes.

Military officials said it is not clear what remained of the division or whether it could offer a viable defense. Coalition warplanes have been pounding the city.

Some Republican Guard and Iraqi paramilitary forces have withdrawn into Tikrit, setting up bunkers and destroying a bridge over the Tigris River, according to Time magazine correspondent Michael Ware, who was in the city Friday.

Pockets of resistance

Near the Syrian border, coalition forces battled serious Iraqi resistance Friday at the town of Qaim, which at one time might have been a key site for Saddam's nuclear program.

The Iraqis' spirited defense of the area "causes it to be of interest to us. "It obviously is of interest to the regime," Brooks said. (Full story)

In Baghdad, the situation was tense as U.S. Marines worked to eliminate remnants of Iraqi resistance.

Marines said they captured a suspected would-be suicide bomber at a checkpoint. Other Marines discovered two suicide bomb "factories" where explosives were being packed into leather jackets and children's dolls, officials said.

In the city of Mosul in northern Iraq, U.S. forces accepted the surrender of Iraq's 5th Corps on Friday. Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and U.S. troops moved into the city in hopes of ending the chaos and looting that swept the city.

Hoshyar Zebari, spokesman for the Kurdish Democratic Party, said the 15,000-strong corps laid down its weapons, and many of the fighters were being held in Mosul. (Full story)

South of Mosul, U.S. forces moved into the city of Kirkuk in greater numbers Friday and moved to secure nearby oil fields.

Other developments

• Mohammed Aldouri, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, was Friday leaving New York, but he did not say whether he planned to resign formally or surrender his credentials. Under U.N. rules, the current Iraqi government holds its seat until a new one presents its credentials and is approved by the U.N. General Assembly. (Full story)

• Syria sealed its border with Iraq, stopping any flow of pro-Saddam volunteers into the latter country, a senior administration official told CNN. Bush on Friday warned Syria not to allow safe haven for Saddam or regime members.

looter
A looter makes off with a mattress near U.S. Bradley fighting vehicles Friday in Baghdad.

• The United States has intercepted conversations of Iraqi officials talking about Saddam as having been killed, officials told CNN Friday. But they stressed the Iraqis could be mistaken or trying to deceive U.S. intelligence.

• Retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, selected by the Bush administration to lead a transition government in Iraq, made a visit to the country and was briefly heckled after he toured a school in the port town of Umm Qasr. Garner said he did not know when he could begin his duties. (Full story)

• The United States will host a conference of Iraqi opposition leaders Tuesday in Nasiriya to discuss the creation of an interim Iraqi authority, the State Department said Friday. (Full story)

• Bush and first lady Laura Bush visited wounded U.S. service members recuperating at military medical facilities in the Washington area Friday. The president presented Purple Heart medals to some of the wounded troops and led ceremonies awarding citizenship to two. (Full story)

• The U.S. government gave assurances Friday that it would secure Iraq's Tawaitha nuclear facility during the conflict in Iraq, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

CNN correspondents Christiane Amanpour, David Ensor, Rula Amin, Chris Plante, Tom Mintier, Diana Muriel, Walter Rodgers, Jane Arraf, Brent Sadler, John King, Barbara Starr and Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.


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