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Coalition Forces Advance, Meet Resistance - 2003-03-25

U.S. led coalition forces have advanced to positions 80 kilometers from Baghdad as coalition warplanes target installations in Baghdad of Iraq's elite Republican Guards. Despite the advance, the U.S. led forces continue to meet pockets of resistance in southern Iraq.

Coalition officials say their forces control the southern city of Umm Qasr, whose ports are important to the humanitarian effort that will be necessary in the coming weeks.

Reporters traveling with American troops Tuesday said coalition forces also control important installations at Nasiriya, including two bridges across the Euphrates River. It was in Nasiriya that coalition forces encountered the fiercest resistance since the beginning of the war in Iraq.

British military spokesman Group Captain Al Lockwood says the resistance has not slowed the coalition drive toward Baghdad. "What television viewers are seeing are normally small skirmishes," he says. "The overall plan is on track and on time. We will deal with these small problems and small skirmishes as we come across them but it will not deflect us from our overall objectives."

Arab foreign ministers, meanwhile, met in Cairo and called for the immediate withdrawal of the American and British forces from Iraq. The Arab League members adopted a resolution saying the attack on Iraq was in violation of the United Nations charter and in defiance of the international community.

League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said the organization was taking the matter to the United Nations. "We, the Arab countries, are going to request a meeting of the Security Council in order to take a decision to stop the war and order withdrawal."

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein appeared on television exhorting his troops to defend their country and Iraqi officials said they were sending supplies to southern Iraq so the people there could defend their country.

Iraqi television broadcast pictures of two American pilots, whose attack helicopter was downed Monday outside Baghdad.

Coalition Commander General Tommy Franks told reporters Monday evening the helicopter was one of several dozen attack helicopters sent into Iraq Monday, but he denied Iraqi claims that the craft was shot down by farmers.

Coalition forces are also conducting search and rescue operations for two British soldiers who went missing Sunday after an ambush on their convoy. And British officials announced Tuesday that two British soldiers have been killed in southern Iraq, the first British combat casualties of the six-day old war.