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US-Led Forces Continue to Advance Toward Baghdad - 2003-03-25

Commanders of the U.S. led coalition forces in Iraq say their troops continue to put pressure on Iraqi forces despite bad weather and some casualties.

The coalition's director of operations, Major-General Gene (Victor) Renuart, says that heavy rain and sandstorms across Iraq Tuesday made conditions uncomfortable for his troops. Nevertheless, he says coalition ground troops continued their advance toward Baghdad.

"Our land forces continue to progress northward," said General Renuart. "We've had a few engagements over the last 24 hours in the vicinity of an-Nasiriyah and Basra and, as you know, have suffered some casualties. But we've also inflicted more on the enemy and destroyed a number of their tanks, artillery pieces and troop formations. The bottom line is we're on track and we'll deal with these regular and irregular forces wherever we find them."

General Renuart said coalition planes flew more than 1,400 missions Tuesday. Major targets included installations of the Republican Guard, key command and control facilities, and missile systems that threaten Kuwait and other neighbors of Iraq.

The operations director said progress in mine clearing efforts by British forces in the waters off the port of Umm Qasr means humanitarian aid will start arriving soon in southern Iraq.

"We also believe that we'll be able to flow humanitarian aid into that port in a very short time," he said. "In fact, we have ships already loading with humanitarian supplies donated by a number of different countries. And we hope to have them up the channels into the port within a very short number of days."

General Renuart said a humanitarian crisis was threatening the area because of a cutoff of water supplies. But he said the water supply has been partially restored through water trucks and a new pipeline.

The coalition official concluded that despite setbacks, troop morale remained high and the military offensive was on track.