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Last Updated: Friday, 2 May, 2003, 10:16 GMT 11:16 UK
Bush declares victory in Iraq
George W Bush gives a thumbs up to the crew of the USS Abraham Lincoln
Cheers greeted Mr Bush's announcement of victory

US President George W Bush has said the US has prevailed in the Battle of Iraq in a speech on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

He explicitly linked the conflict in the Gulf to the 11 September 2001 terror attacks on the United States.

He spoke of victories in Afghanistan, but warned that the al-Qaeda network was "wounded, not destroyed".

"We will continue to hunt down the enemy before he can strike," he told the cheering officers and sailors aboard the ship.

Mr Bush landed on the aircraft carrier in a small navy plane, making him the first sitting US president to take part in a so-called tailhook landing.

Earlier, Mr Bush's spokesman Ari Fleischer warned that the president's speech would not mark the end of hostilities "from a legal point of view".

We have begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons, and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated
George W Bush

There are legal implications to declaring a war officially ended: under the Geneva Conventions, once war is declared over, the victorious army must release prisoners-of-war and halt operations targeting specific leaders.

The US is not prepared to do that, the BBC's Matt Frei in Washington says.

The United States never formally declared war on Iraq.

In other developments:

  • The United Nations says it is re-establishing a permanent presence in Baghdad, as a senior humanitarian official arrives there

  • Key Iraqi political parties begin a series of meetings to discuss moves to set up an interim government
  • The US formally closes its operation mounted out of Turkey to monitor northern no-fly zone in Iraq

  • A veteran Danish diplomat is appointed post-war head of Basra province - one of four Iraqi administrative regions

  • A few hundred Iraqi communists take to the streets of Baghdad for the first time in decades to mark May Day

Mr Bush's announcement was based upon an assessment given to him on Tuesday by General Tommy Franks, the top US military commander in the Gulf.

He said "difficult work" remained to be done in Iraq.

General Tommy Franks, commander of forces in the Iraq war
General Franks made the assessment

"We are pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We have begun a search for chemical and biological weapons, and already know hundreds of sites that will be investigated," he said.

He linked the war in Iraq to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

"The Battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on 11 September 2001, and still goes on," he said.

'Terrorists failed'

"By seeking to turn our cities into killing fields, terrorists and their allies believed they could destroy this nation's resolve, and force our retreat from the world. They have failed," he said to the cheers of the ship's crew.

Mr Bush said that although the war on terror was still going on, it would not be endless.

"We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide... Free nations will press on to victory," he said.

And he thanked the other nations that contributed troops to the US-led war, the UK, Australia and Poland.

The BBC's Rob Watson in Washington says Thursday's speech is probably as close as the president will ever get to saying that the war is over and won.

'Thrilling ride'

Mr Bush arrived in a US navy jet on board the USS Abraham Lincoln, which is heading back home after 10 months of operations in the Gulf region.

George Bush aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln
Bush: Dramatic arrival aboard USS Abraham Lincoln for speech

The jet was caught on the carrier's flight deck by a cable - a routine experience that sometimes can be stomach-churning.

For the flight Mr Bush - a former National Guard pilot - sat next to the pilot and emerged in full flight suit to shake hands with staff on the carrier deck.

With his helmet tucked under his arm, he told reporters he had taken the controls and enjoyed the flight.

"Of course I liked it, " he said.

The BBC's Nick Bryant
"The speech also marked a tactical shift from conflicts abroad to domestic concerns"


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