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Iraqi War Update - 2003-03-30

The U.S. general in charge of the war against Iraq says allied forces are making what he calls "remarkable progress", but won't predict how long the conflict will last. There was lots of action on the battlefield Sunday on a number of fronts.

American forces gathered strength Sunday launching widespread air and ground attacks on Iraqi troops. It was another night of ferocious bombing raids on Baghdad as U.S. fighter jets carried out a wave of strikes. One of the targets was the presidential palace of Saddam Hussein’s son Uday.

In Basra, coalition forces attacked several of Saddam Hussein’s ruling Baath Party headquarters. Reports say several hundred Iraqi leaders were killed. British and U.S. soldiers with the help of informants discovered and destroyed huge stockpiles of weapons.

In Nasiriyah, U.S. troops, in door-to-door raids, rounded up suspected Iraqi paramilitary troops whom coalition leaders say have been leading resistance attacks around the city. But the coalition is bearing down on Baghdad and Saddam Hussein’s elite Republican Guard troops.

The commander of coalition forces in Iraq, General Tommy Franks, says allied ground forces are within 100 kilometers of Baghdad on multiple fronts.

“A growing coalition of nearly 50 nations stands one day closer to liberating Iraq and removing the threat of the regime’s weapons of mass destruction.”

But appearing undeterred by the coalition forces surrounding the capital, Iraq’s Information Minister, Saeed Sahhaf, vowed to launch more attack against British and U.S. forces.

“They are like a snake, now it’s length is more than 500 kilometers and we are going to cut this snake in pieces.”

In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the battle for Baghdad would likely be a tough one.

“There are difficult days ahead and to the extend that the Republican Guard pose difficulties which we expect them to, there will be dangerous days ahead.”

While coalition troops prepare for an assault on the capital, U.S. special forces are working to control sections of Northern Iraq. So-called carpet bombing air strikes were made on hillside area where Iraqi forces were positioned.

As the fighting continues, efforts are still being made to deliver small amounts of humanitarian food aid for Iraqis. But coalition officials say any large-scale aid distributions can only begin after the security situation in Iraq has improved.