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ARLINGTON, Va. — Calling it “a good day for the Iraqi people,” Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld cautioned Wednesday from the podium in the pressroom that the U.S. military’s job is not yet done.

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

“The regime has been dealt a serious blow, but coalition forces will not stop until the job is done.”

And part of that job consists of conquering pockets of resistance, especially in northern Iraq, said Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Coalition forces must still contend with Special Republican Guards and “death squads” in and around Baghdad, members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, members of the regular Army fight in the north, and those terrorizing travelers in the west, Myers said.

Military officials cautiously embraced Wednesday’s jubilation and welcoming parties in the streets of Baghdad.

“We cannot and must not become overconfident,” Myers said, directing the message to the troops.

In part, U.S. officials don’t know exactly what has happened to many of the elite soldiers who were expected to put up fierce resistance in the fight for Baghdad, Myers said.

Those soldiers who seem to have “melted away” might have been killed in battles with Army and Marine Corps units who surrounded the capital, or might have shed their uniforms, abandoned their weapons and blended in with the population, Myers said.

Or they might be lying in wait, hiding for an opportunity to strike, he said.

There were more than 10 regular Iraqi army divisions intact in the north and one brigade of the Republican Guard, Myers said.

U.S. government agencies are teaming up to provide reward money to Iraqis who help coalition forces track down a number of people, from high-ranking members of the regime to scientists who might provide information to prove the U.S. contention that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, Rumsfeld said.

“We need help,” Rumsfeld said, adding the demise of the regime means people with information no longer need to fear repercussion or persecution.

Rumsfeld also had stern words for Syria, reiterating earlier assertions that the government was serving as a conduit for military equipment, including night-vision goggles, heading to Iraqi forces.

“They would be well advised not to provide military equipment to Iraq,” he said.

Rumsfeld also suggested that the Syrian government was helping Saddam loyalists to leave Iraq and cross the border into Syria.

Asked if any other countries beyond Iraq were potential targets for use of U.S. military force, Rumsfeld said: “No one is throwing down the gauntlet. … I have nothing to announce. We’re still dealing with Iraq.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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