US President George W. Bush cautiously welcomed Iraqi joy as US forces prowled downtown Baghdad but warned that "the war is not over" and grave dangers may lie ahead, the White House said.
Television images of Iraqis assailing a large statue of Saddam Hussein "are heartening signs of military progress and mankind's taste for freedom," spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters. "It's a historic moment."
But "we are still in the midst of a shooting war, and men and women are still in harm's way. The war is not over. There remain a lot of dangers ahead," the spokesman said as gunfire could be heard on broadcasts from Baghdad.
"This remains a time of utmost caution," said Fleischer, who added that other cities in Iraq remain under the control of Saddam's regime and that US-led forces still face pockets of tough resistance.
"As much as the president is pleased to see the progress of the military campaign, and the Iraqi people finding freedom where they are finding it, he remains very cautious because he knows that there is grave danger that could still lie ahead," said Fleischer.
Asked about conflicting media reports about whether Saddam was alive or dead, Fleischer said that "we still don't know his fate" but cautioned neighboring nations against offering him refuge.
Saddam "missed his chance" to go peacefully into exile, he said, adding that Bush "gave him an opportunity and he did not take it." (Albawaba.com)
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