U.S. Shrugs Off Saddam Sightings

A man who may or may not be Saddam Hussein holds a baby amid a crowd of cheering Iraqis on the streets of Baghdad, as U.S. troops lurked on the edges of the city.
With thousands of U.S. troops on Baghdad's doorstep – and some already in the city – the Iraqi regime Friday provided the strongest indication to date that Saddam Hussein may have survived a U.S. air strike two weeks ago.

The Iraqi leader – or someone resembling him – appeared on state-run television urging Iraqis to fight the Americans and making specific mention of an incident that occurred after the start of the war.

Saddam referred to a farmer – a "valiant Iraqi peasant," he called him – who Iraq maintained shot down a U.S. Apache helicopter on March 23. He also said the U.S.-led forces had "bypassed your (Iraqi) armed defenses" in the battlefield and urged his followers to "strike them forcefully, strike them."

Later, Iraqi TV showed scenes of a man said to be Saddam walking through Baghdad, surrounded by cheering supporters. He even held up and kissed a baby at one point.

U.S. officials say that even if the footage of Saddam is authentic, it doesn't really matter. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says the regime's days are coming to an end, "whether it is him, or isn't him."