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US General  Promises Historic War Campaign - 2003-03-22

The commander of the U.S. led war against Iraq has expressed satisfaction with the military operation to date but warns that tough times lie ahead. VOA correspondent Scott Bobb reports from General Tommy Franks' command center at Al-Sayliyah base in Qatar, that the general also said great efforts are being made to minimize civilian casualties.

General Tommy Franks met with reporters Saturday for the first time since the start of the war and promised a military campaign that has never been seen before.

"This will be a campaign unlike any other in history. A campaign characterized by shock, by surprise, by flexibility, by the employment of precise munitions on a scale never before seen and by the application of overwhelming force," he said.

General Franks stressed he is satisfied with progress of the war so far and said his troops have performed magnificently.

Thousands of coalition forces have advanced into Iraq since hostilities began Thursday with an attack on a reported group of senior Iraqi leaders. Coalition forces Saturday said they have taken the southern port city of Umm Qasr. They say they have secured its oil installations and are advancing on the nearby city of Basra.

Iraqi officials deny that Umm Qasr has fallen and say coalition forces are meeting stiff resistance from Iraqi troops.

General Franks played down that assertion, saying there likely will be surprises in the campaign but he had not seen any yet. The coalition commander said more than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers have been taken prisoner and negotiations are under way for the surrender of thousands more.

Asked about reports that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was a casualty in Thursday's air strike on Baghdad, General Franks said that did not matter.

"I don't know if he's alive or not. But the way we're undertaking this military operation, it would not be changed irrespective of the location or the life of this one man. And that's why we talk about the regime," he said.

General Franks went on to say his forces have not yet discovered any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, a major reason given for the war on Iraq, but he indicated he expects they will be found eventually.

Addressing concerns about civilian casualties, General Franks noted that non-combatants are injured and killed in any war, but he said his troops are going to what he called extraordinary lengths to be precise about their targeting.