- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 21 (UPI) — The White House said Friday that intelligence experts have determined that the appearance of Saddam Hussein on Iraqi television earlier this week was genuine, but they couldn't say when or where the videotape was recorded.

"The tape has been analyzed by the Central Intelligence Agency, and their analysis leads them to believe that the tape is indeed the voice of Saddam Hussein, but no conclusions have been reached about whether it was canned ahead of time or not," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said. "There's insufficient information about anybody to draw a conclusion about that."

Saddam made remarks to the Iraqi people about five hours after hostilities began on Wednesday night. There had been speculation that the person on the videotape was one of Saddam's reputed body doubles or that he had made the tape before the start of the war, to be aired in the event he was killed or injured.

In the tape shown Thursday, Saddam was in military uniform wearing eyeglasses and looking pale and bloated. The tape mentioned the date but made no direct references to the military strikes.

The White House brushed aside reports from the region stating that Saddam had been seen on Wednesday night being removed from a building on a gurney after being injured when the bombs hit a compound where the Iraqi leadership was supposedly meeting.

Fleischer said U.S. officials had no confirmation on whether those reports were true.

"I don't know how Saddam Hussein is feeling today," Fleischer told reporters.

The White House also could not confirm who was actually in control of Iraq and whether there was another command structure in place if Saddam was incapacitated.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters that the Iraqi regime was "losing control of the country," but Fleischer said it was premature to talk about a replacement government.

"I think events on the ground will dictate the pace of all future events involving the reconstruction of Iraq. The principles that are going to guide the reconstruction of Iraq, at whatever time it becomes operative, will be the protection of the territorial integrity of Iraq and that Iraq shall be governed from both within and without by the Iraqi people," Fleischer said.

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