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US Troops Move in on Tikrit - 2003-04-13

U.S. troops have moved in on Tikrit, the hometown of deposed Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein. Along the way, the troops got a pleasant surprise. They found seven soldiers captured earlier by Iraqi forces.

U.S. forces encountered what military officials describe as "spotty resistance" as they moved in on Tikrit.

The troops lobbed artillery and tank rounds to roust what are believed to be some of the last remnants of Iraqi loyalist forces.

While on the move to Tikrit, U.S. forces came upon seven U.S. soldiers who had been listed as missing or prisoners of war. They were flown to Kuwait, where they were examined by U.S. military doctors and reported to be fine.

President Bush welcomed the rescue of the prisoners.

Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press television program, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said local residents provided information about the prisoners' location.

"An awful lot of Iraqis are being cooperative. And in this case, they advised us that there were Americans in a certain location," he said.

In Baghdad there were sporadic firefights with holdouts of the deposed Saddam Hussein regime.

President Bush expressed irritation at media reports of the looting that has swept through Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq. He blamed Saddam Hussein for the looting.

"The statue [of Hussein] comes down on Wednesday, and the headlines start to read, "oh, there's disorder." Well, no kidding. It is a situation which is chaotic because Saddam Hussein created the conditions for chaos, created conditions of fear and hatred. And it's going to take a while to stabilize the country," he said.

The looting appears to have died down somewhat. VOA correspondent Alysha Ryu says U.S. troops in Baghdad have increased security measures, setting up checkpoints at various parts of the city.

"The looting that has gone on with the ministries and the hotels and embassies in that area, that has diminished considerably," she reported. "People seem to have taken what they wanted and are no longer in that area. Of course, the security is much higher today than it has been in the last couple of days."

The United States will run things in Iraq until a temporary Iraqi civilian authority can be constituted. Retired U.S. General Jay Garner, who will run the temporary U.S. administration, said the United States will create conditions for Iraqis to run the country themselves.

"What we're going to do and what we intend to do is create an environment inside Iraq so they can build a nation for themselves," he said.

On Tuesday, a meeting will be convened in southern Iraq to begin discussions on setting up an Iraqi interim authority. In an interview with British television, U-S Secretary of State Colin Powell denied that anyone has been pre-selected to run that authority.

"The United States has not anointed anyone to be the future leader of Iraq or to be the leader of the IIA, the Interim Iraqi Authority. We believe very strongly that the Iraqi people and representatives of the Iraqi people in the first instance are the ones who should do that. The president has made it very clear that we are not in the business of installing the next president of Iraq," he said.

There are sharp divisions in U.S. policymaking circles about whether controversial exile leader Ahmad Chalabi should head the interim authority, or if it should go to someone else.