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Iraqi Officials Deny Coalition Controls Umm Qasr - 2003-03-26

Senior Iraqi officials are denying coalition claims that U.S. and British forces are in control of a key port city in southern Iraq.

Iraq says the battle for the southern port city of Umm Qasr is still being waged, disputing U.S. and British claims that the city is under control of coalition forces.

Iraq's minister of information, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, told reporters in Baghdad that coalition forces are waging a propaganda campaign regarding Umm Qasr.

"They tried to mislead the audience, the public opinion, the viewers about what is going on in Umm Qasr," he said. "They said they control Umm Qasr. They control the bay. They said they control the docks, and so on. And they tried to give the impression, deliberately, that they are in control of Umm Qasr, and that's not true, completely not true. Up until now they are not in Umm Qasr, not in the city. Now they are in a very shabby situation."

Mr. al-Sahaf accused coalition forces of bombing residential neighborhoods in the southern city of Nassiriya, which he said wounded 500 civilians and destroyed 200 homes. U.S. officials say they are investigating.

The information minister said the position of all of Iraq's armed forces sectors is, in his words, very good.

Mr. al-Sahaf said Iraqi citizens will be in charge of rebuilding Iraq under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, not with, he said, the hands of colonization.