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Rumsfeld denies overruling military plan

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the U.S. military campaign is working in Iraq.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the U.S. military campaign is working in Iraq.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Sunday dismissed "hyperventilating" critics of the war in Iraq and called reports that he vetoed plans by top officers for a larger invasion force "fiction."

Rumsfeld denied that U.S. forces have stopped their advance toward Baghdad, and he told ABC's "This Week" that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's situation "is not a happy one."

"We're within 49 miles of Baghdad," Rumsfeld said. "He's being closed on from the north, south, and there's so many people running around hyperventilating that things aren't going well. This plan is working."

A mostly U.S. and British force has advanced more than 200 miles toward Baghdad after invading Iraq on March 20. Critics have said the Bush administration did not anticipate the level of resistance from Iraqi forces and the lukewarm reception from Iraqi civilians.

Rumsfeld said the plan was developed by Gen. Tommy Franks -- the chief of the U.S. Central Command -- in conjunction with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"I would be delighted to take credit for it. It's a good plan. It's a creative and an innovative plan, and it's going to work," he said, adding that "it's a little early for postmortems."

Rumsfeld's remarks were in response to an article in the New Yorker magazine and other media reports that he had rejected requests from Franks and the Pentagon for more troops and hardware before starting a ground war against Iraq.

He told reporters Sunday that Iraqi resistance is "quite stiff" in pockets on the battlefield, and he suggested that "the most dangerous and difficult days" for U.S. and British troops lie ahead.

He added that -- unlike the 1991 Persian Gulf War -- there have been no masses of refugees fleeing Iraq and few civilian casualties. He said Iraqi attempts to set fire to the country's southern oil fields also have failed.

"A lot of good things happened and a lot of bad things were avoided because Gen. Franks decided to put forces on the ground fast and early," he said.

In an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," Rumsfeld cast doubt on the authenticity of footage of Saddam aired recently on Iraqi state television.

Rumsfeld said that Saddam prepared "lots" of videos before the war and that U.S. officials have no way to know for certain that the Iraqi leader and his sons have survived coalition airstrikes.

"Where is Saddam Hussein? Where is Uday, where is Qusay, his sons? They're not talking," he said.

Earlier Sunday at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Qatar, Franks also denied media reports of undue influence from Rumsfeld. Franks told reporters that as operational commander he drove the course of the military campaign in Iraq.

"Very few people" know how this military plan was put together, Franks said.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also voiced his support for Franks on Sunday.

The coalition forces massed against the Iraqi regime are "exactly" what Gen. Tommy Franks wanted, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, said Sunday.

"The forces they have are exactly what Gen. Franks wanted, what all his component commanders agreed to, what he agreed to, what we all agreed to as we tried to put this plan together," Gen. Richard Myers told reporters.

The forces moving into the theater of operations were lined up many months ago and are flowing now according to plan, Myers said. "We're on plan. We're on track. And the end of this conclusion is not in doubt -- there will not be an Iraqi regime and they will be disarmed."

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