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Coalition Forces Face Some Resistance in Iraqi Port City - 2003-03-23


Coalition forces Sunday engaged in firefights with Iraqi troops around Umm Qasr, one day after seizing the city's deep-water port and securing oil installations in the area. Coalition spokesmen said U.S. and British troops had also reached the outskirts of the nearby city of Basra.

Coalition Commander General Tommy Franks told reporters Saturday evening that his troops would not attack Basra for the time being. He said more than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers had surrendered during the first days of the military offensive, and said negotiations were underway with Iraqi commanders for the surrender of more Iraqi troops.

Iraqi officials, however, disputed the reports, saying that Umm Qasr has not fallen.

General Franks Saturday met reporters for the first time since the start of the war. He 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 said he is satisfied with the progress of the war so far, adding that his troops have performed magnificently.

U.S. troops, meanwhile, continued to advance rapidly toward Baghdad, two days after crossing into Iraq from staging points in Kuwait.

And coalition forces continued to bomb military and government installations in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.

Iraqi officials said Saturday three people were killed and two hundred were wounded in these attacks.

Coalition officials also announced that several U.S. soldiers in Kuwait were victims of a grenade attack Saturday night, in which one soldier was killed and a dozen were wounded. They said one U.S. soldier was detained in connection with that incident.

Meanwhile, demonstrations against the war on Iraq continued. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and several American cities, as Operation Iraqi Freedom entered its fourth day.