Upbeat Bush says successful attack marks turning point

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The Independent Online

Revelling in his biggest success in Iraq for months, George Bush declared yesterday that the death of Saddam Hussein's two sons was proof that the former regime in Baghdad was gone "and will not be coming back".

Appearing in the White House Rose Garden alongside Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, and Paul Bremer, the US special administrator for Iraq, Mr Bush delivered an upbeat progress report to mark what his administration fervently hopes will be a turning point in the US-led occupation.

He called Qusay and Uday Hussein "two of the regime's chief henchmen", and described the continuing resistance to the US forces in Iraq as "a few remaining hold-outs", which were operating in only a few areas of the country. "Wherever they operate, they're being hunted, and they will be defeated," Mr Bush insisted.

The President's address came on a day when two more American soldiers died in separate attacks, bringing to 37 the number of soldiers lost in "hostile incidents" since he proclaimed the end of the war on 1 May.

The removal of Qusay and Uday, with yesterday's seizure of Barzan Majid al-Tikriti, commander of the Special Republican Guard and No 11 on the Pentagon's most-wanted list, means 37 of the 55 individuals featured in the "deck of cards" are either dead or in American custody.

US commanders attribute the latest successes to a change of tactics on the ground, going after lower-level Baath party officials, and using the intelligence gathered from them to help to locate the top targets. "There was a snowball effect," a military official told The Washington Post.

The White House is also hoping to use the story of the Mosul firefight as cover to lay quietly to rest the controversy over how a reference to alleged Iraqi attempts to purchase uranium in Africa - long since discredited - found its way into President Bush's State of the Union address in January. In an admission designed to end the matter, Stephen Hadley, Mr Bush's deputy national security adviser, said on Tuesday that he had been told by the CIA of the agency's scepticism towards the reports last autumn, and had ordered them to be removed from the text of an important speech by the President in Cincinnati last October."We had opportunities here to avoid this problem," he said. "We didn't take them."

This version is very different from the claim by Mr Hadley's boss, Condoleezza Rice, that the CIA warnings never reached the higher echelons of the White House.