INTERNATIONAL

Iraqis well on their way to freedom, says Rumsfeld

An Iraqi girl takes away a weapon looted from a police station at Saddam city in Baghdad on Wednesday. — AP  

Washington April 9. The Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has said that the Iraqi people need not fear the return of the past, even while stressing that President Saddam Hussein has taken his place in history along with other brutal dictators that went before him.

``Saddam Hussein is now taking his rightful place alongside Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Ceausesceu in the pantheon of failed brutal dictators and the Iraqi people are well on their way to freedom'', Mr. Rumsfeld told a briefing at the Pentagon.

Terming the images of troops storming through the streets of Baghdad and the people coming out to celebrate as ``breath-taking'',the top Pentagon civilian official called it a ``very good day''.

Mr. Rumsfeld and the Chairman of the Joint Cheifs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, have cautioned the American people that much work remained and that there are other cities in Iraq which are being hotly contested.

``We must not and should not become over-confident'',Gen. Myers said.

At the White House the spokesman, Ari Fleischer noted that while the President, George Bush is pleased to see the progress of the military campaign ``he remains very cautious because he knows there is a great danger that could still lie ahead''.

In an address to newspaper editors in New Orleans, the Vice President, Dick Cheney called the war as ``one of the most extraordinary military campaigns ever conducted'' and argued that ``with every day, with every advance of our coalition forces, the wisdom of that plan becomes more apparent''.

And at a time when there are those in Europe and Russia calling for a deeper role for the United Nations in the post-conflict Iraq, Mr. Cheney brushed aside the notion that the world body could play a major role and thereby insisting that the U.S.-led coalition will take the lead. ``We don't believe that the United Nations is equipped to play that central role'', Mr. Cheney said.