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Sheila MacVicar: Did Saddam go to Syria?

CNN's Sheila MacVicar
CNN's Sheila MacVicar

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SPECIAL REPORT
•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models

(CNN) As coalition forces continue to secure Iraq, questions continue about what happened to former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, as well as key figures in his regime.

CNN correspondent Sheila MacVicar spoke to CNN anchor Carol Costello from Damascus, Syria, Saturday.

COSTELLO: Sheila, good morning. Many questions to ask you about Syria. Of course, there is still the thought out there that members of Saddam Hussein's regime and maybe even Saddam Hussein himself have gone into Syria.

MACVICAR: That is indeed one of the big questions, and we've been hearing about that over the course of the last number of days from various U.S. administration officials: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and yesterday from the president himself when he was speaking at the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.

The American administration has been saying publicly that they believe that some members of the regime or some family members of the regime may have come into Syria. But it's important to note, Carol, that Rumsfeld yesterday characterized that information himself as "scraps of intelligence."

The Syrians, in various conversations that I have had with them, have said that they do not have any information that would lead them to believe that there were such people here in Syria.

The question, of course, is whether there could be people here without the knowledge of the regime, or whether there are people here whom the regime in Syria is concealing. I think on balance at the moment the view seems to be that what we are hearing from U.S. administration officials in Washington is a very loud and very public warning based, it appears, on not very much evidence here in Syria.

A deck of 55 playing-sized cards featuring members of Iraqi leadership will be distributed among members of Coalition forces.
A deck of 55 playing-sized cards featuring members of Iraqi leadership will be distributed among members of Coalition forces.

Of course, the Syrians have been told that if such people do indeed show up on their borders, then they expect them to be handed over to the proper authorities, and that, of course, would be the United States.

COSTELLO: But Syria is not actively looking for anyone from the Iraqi regime.

MACVICAR: Those borders between Iraq and Syria have been closed. The only people permitted across the border into Iraq are Iraqi passport holders. Now, this is something that the U.S. has been asking the Syrians to do ... since before the war started, something that they did just in the last couple of days.

We were out at the border yesterday, one of the official border crossing points -- there are several others -- and what we saw was a very deserted landscape with only a few Iraqis heading back home, people who actually had either been in exile in Syria or people who had left Baghdad before the war began, heading back home to see what conditions were there.

Now, we also know that on the other side of the border, on the Iraqi side of the border, there are American military checkpoints, a number of them, we are told, operating on those highways leading toward Syria. Checkpoints are in place in an effort to ensure that if there are already senior members of the regime attempting to flee into Syria that they could be apprehended and arrested.

I know, as a matter of fact, that just a day ago those checkpoints were operating so efficiently that they managed to detain some Syrian diplomats who were returning home to Damascus. The Syrians, it seems, had not told the Americans what their route was.

COSTELLO: Sheila MacVicar reporting live from Damascus, Syria, this morning.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.


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