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Franks: Saddam government an 'ex-regime'


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DOHA, Qatar (CNN) -- Gen. Tommy Franks said Sunday the Saddam Hussein government is now an "ex-regime," but he said he is reluctant to declare victory in the conflict because there is some resistance holding on throughout Iraq.

In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer that will be aired on Late Edition, he said the Iraqi army has been "destroyed" and "there is no regime command and control," but pockets of paramilitary and foreign fighters remain throughout the country.

"Until we have a sense that we have all of that under control, then we probably will not characterize the initial military phase as having been completed," Franks said. "We're reasonably well-satisfied" with the war's progress and said the coalition effort is "on plan."

He said there are "American forces" in Tikrit, Iraq, and there is no resistance.

"This is the last of the major population centers that we know we want to control."

Franks said he plans to go to Baghdad in a matter of days but downplayed a suggestion that it would be a symbolic visit. Franks said the coalition will be "committed" to the effort for a "considerable period of time."

Franks said he doesn't know if Saddam Hussein is dead or alive, but he said, "He's either dead or he's running."

"He'll simply be alive until I could confirm he's dead," Franks said.

The coalition has a sample of Saddam's DNA and is using the appropriate forensics to "chase" down his fate, Franks said.

He said the military plans to scour sites throughout the country to search for weapons of mass destruction. He said the instability in Baghdad and other cities now will lessen as it did in Basra. He expects people in all cities will want to be part of the rebuilding process as they did in Basra.

As for the issue of combat troops not being stationed in Turkey, Franks said the forces that operated in northern Iraq -- they include the U.S. troops and the Kurdish Peshmerga -- have been "ample" to the task.

Franks indicated his worst moments in the war have been reports of missing soldiers and said reports that seven U.S. troops, either prisoners of war or missing in action, have been found "is a very good news thing for us."

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