Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the general who will oversee U.S. forces in a war against Iraq are expressing confidence about a U.S. victory, should President Bush make the decision to use force against Iraq.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Army four-star General Tommy Franks appeared before reporters at the Pentagon after talks at the White House with President Bush about military strategy.

Neither man would give any indication whether war with Iraq is imminent.

But General Franks says U.S. troops and their coalition partners are ready.

"Our troops in the field are trained, they are ready, they are capable, and if the President of the United States decides to undertake military operations with the coalition mentioned by the Secretary, there is no doubt we will prevail," General Franks said.

Some 230,000 U.S. military personnel are already in the Gulf region, poised to strike Iraq, with some 60,000 more prepared to move to the area shortly.

Those forces include five aircraft carrier battle groups, with a sixth on its way.

General Franks says those forces are ready to strike immediately if ordered to do so.

"If the President of the United States decides to undertake action, we are in a position to provide a military option," he added.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld declined to say whether it was time for U.N. inspectors, aid workers and even journalists to leave Baghdad.

But Mr. Rumsfeld says there is still hope for achieving the goal of Iraqi disarmament without use of force.

"It could happen because Saddam Hussein could decide to leave the country, it could happen because some of his close associates could decide that he ought to leave the country, it could happen because his forces might decide that it doesn't make sense to fight for a regime that won't be there," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Neither man is willing to predict how many casualties there might be, if there is a war,

They pledge U.S. forces will seek to minimize collateral damage and civilian casualties through the use of advanced precision-guided weapons and even non-lethal devices.

But General Franks notes Iraq has placed military equipment close to hospitals, schools, mosques and other civilian infrastructure. He says that type of what he describes as "ruthless" action is a variable outside of U.S. control.