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Iraq Denies Coalition Troops Approaching Baghdad - 2003-04-03


Senior Iraqi officials are disputing reports that coalition forces are near the capital of Baghdad. They also say coalition forces control no Iraqi city or town.

While reporters traveling with coalition forces say U.S. and British troops are within a few kilometers of Baghdad, Iraqi officials continue to insist otherwise.

Iraq's minister of information, Mohammed al-Sahhaf, told reporters in Baghdad Thursday that claims coalition forces are near the capital are an illusion.

"They are not even 100 miles, or whatever," he said. "They are not in any place. They hold no place in Iraq. This is an illusion they are trying to sell to the others, an illusion. They [do not] hold of any, any Iraqi town. They are on the move. They are trapped everywhere in the country."

Far from being trapped, coalition spokesmen say their forces are on the move. And, they say, they are on the move toward Baghdad.

Mr. al-Sahhaf said bombing raids in and around Baghdad since Wednesday had killed 27 civilians and wounded 193 people.

There is no way to independently confirm the information about casualties given by Iraqi officials.

However, for the first time, Mr. al-Sahhaf said the figures he gives during his news briefings are estimates of casualties.