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New Goal of Coalition: Establish Stability in Iraq - 2003-04-14

The U.S. military in the Gulf says the imminent fall of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, has brought the campaign in Iraq to what one general calls a transition point.

U.S. tanks and troops have all but taken control of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's last power base. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, the Central Command spokesman, says U.S. forces are holding the presidential palace in Tikrit and searching for supporters of the regime in the city and its surrounding area.

General Brooks says Tikrit appears to have fallen with less resistance than the U.S. military expected, but he cautions that loyalist elements have not given up the fight.

In General Brooks' view, future fighting will be more localized and on a smaller scale. The U.S. military, he says, no longer considers the Iraqi army an effective force and expects whatever fighting occurs will not be in response to what he calls an organized regime effort.

"There are a number of objectives to this campaign, and all of those objectives have to be obtained before we can say the mission is accomplished, the victory is complete, and we can proceed on with other responsibilities we have," he said.

General Brooks says there are still places in Iraq where U.S. forces have not rooted out all military activity and some they have not even been to yet.

"But clearly we are at a point where the decisive military operations that were focused on removing the regime, destroying its capability, removing its ability to threaten neighboring countries, coalition forces or our own countries, that work is coming to a close," added General Brooks. "So it is a transition point we are in now."

General Brooks says the coalition's goal now is to transition from combat operations to the establishment of stability throughout the country.

General Brooks says one focus of coalition forces' attention is tracking down the disappearance of 80 explosive vests, the kind used for suicide attacks. He says they could be in the hands of foreign fighters, most of them Syrian, who have been conducting skirmishes with U.S. forces around Baghdad.

The general also announced that all of Iraq's oil fields, seen as a key to the country's economic recovery, are now under the control of U.S. and allied forces.