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LaHood: Hussein's capture imminent


BLOOMINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood held his thumb and forefinger slightly apart and said, "We're this close" to catching Saddam Hussein.

Once that's accomplished, Iraqi resistance will fall apart, said the five-term Republican congressman from Peoria who serves on the House Intelligence Committee.

A member of The Pantagraph editorial board -- not really expecting an answer -- asked LaHood for more details, saying, "Do you know something we don't?"

"Yes I do," replied LaHood.

LaHood spent an hour at the newspaper Monday, discussing the war on terror, the 2004 elections, Central Illinois' regional economic development and his less-than-enthusiastic appraisal of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's performance.

The comment about the deposed Iraqi president came while LaHood discussed next year's elections.

The congressman said he's been disappointed with U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald and believes the Republican senator isn't seeking a second term because "he can't get the votes."

LaHood hopes his party can hold the Senate seat because, he said, "President Bush is popular south of I-80, and that will help our Republican Senate candidate."

The economy -- barring a cataclysmic event like the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- will be central to the presidential race, he said.

"People working, making money, taking care of their families, health-care costs" -- those are the key issues, LaHood said.

He said the war is a major issue, but not as important as the economy.

LaHood said polls still show most Americans support the U.S. military presence in Iraq. Then he added, "Once we get Saddam ... and we're this close."

He said members of Congress who return from trips to the war zone all say the Iraqi people are very thankful to the United States and added, "You don't hear about that too often."
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