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Opposition leader: Saddam is alive

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People crawl over rubble in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood after Monday's strike.

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NASIRIYA, Iraq (CNN) -- A key Iraqi opposition leader says he has information that Saddam Hussein survived an airstrike in Baghdad and escaped from the capital with at least one of his sons.

However, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he did not know whether Saddam was dead or alive.

"He's either dead, or he's incapacitated, or he's healthy and cowering in some tunnel someplace trying to avoid being caught. What else can one say?" Rumsfeld said.

Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi told CNN Wednesday the unconfirmed reports indicated that the Iraqi president had taken refuge in the city of Baqubah, northeast of the Iraqi capital.

"We have no evidence they have been killed in that attack. We know at least that Qusay, his son, has survived and he is occupying some houses in the Diyala area," Chalabi said.

The same reports indicated that Gen. Ali Hassan al-Majeed -- nicknamed "Chemical Ali" -- was wounded but alive and in the same area.

While Chalabi offered gratitude to the coalition for Iraq's liberation, he also expressed irritation that the coalition has not provided more assistance in cities such as Nasiriya and Basra.

As long as humanitarian and infrastructure problems in the country persist, Chalabi said, the country will remain unstable, despite the coalition's military progress. Referring to Iraqi's ruling Baath Party, he called for "de-Baathification" of the country.

"There will be no absolute security with the current situation. The U.S. troops have defeated Saddam militarily. That was never a problem. The issue is the Baath party and the remnants of the Baath party who will continue to pose a threat."

He asked why coalition officials are in Kuwait when the southern region is in "great need of assistance."

"This is true all over the south," he said.

"It's very important to be in the southern part of Iraq," he said, because people have become "dispossessed" and the citizenry needs to be "empowered."

"They must feel they are part of the political process," he said.

"Where is General Garner now?" Chalabi said, referring to retired Army Gen. Jay Garner, who is to head up U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq.

"The people need assistance here in Nasiriya. Why are they not here? Why don't they work to rehabilitate the electricity and water? Why don't they start working on the curriculum? Why are they in Kuwait? This area is in great need of assistance now. People are hungry. Their supplies are going to run out. Basic services have to be restored," he said.

"Where are they?"

He said he met with a Marine commander in Nasiriya to "get a police force going."

"I think the way to move forward is to create a police force from scratch. Many of the police officers have gone home," he said.


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