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Last Updated:  Friday, 4 April, 2003, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Reporters' Log: War in Iraq
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The BBC's unrivalled team of correspondents is bringing you news from the Gulf and reaction from around the world. On this page BBC News Online logs their impressions and personal experiences as they watch events unfold.

Most recent postings are at the top.

Friday, 4 April

Washington D.C. :: Rob Watson :: 2240 GMT

This was the most detailed vision yet of a post-war Iraq and, importantly, it was delivered by the president's closest foreign policy aide, Condoleezza Rice. She said in the first instance Iraq would effectively be run by an office headed by a retired US general, who in turn would answer to the Pentagon.

As soon as possible an Iraqi interim authority would then be established, made up of Iraqis from inside and outside the country and from all ethnic and religious groups.

Ms Rice said the authority would not be a provisional government and would not be imposed by coalition countries - though she left vague just how it would be chosen.

As for the United Nations, she said its precise role was still to be decided, but she insisted the coalition would naturally have the leading role for a period of time, having given life and blood for Iraq's liberation.

Northern Iraq :: John Simpson :: 2116 GMT

Out here close to the Iraqi front line I can hear the US jets circling around. In the last 20 minutes there has been the sound of a lot of explosions.

They dropped what appeared to be large bombs, I counted about 16 or 17 of them. The ground shook, our clothes shook on us, it was very frightening.

Baghdad :: Paul Wood :: 2104 GMT

I can see some lights twinkling in the distance tonight again, but the power remains off in the majority of the city.

I have seen a missile streaking across the sky, followed by a loud explosion.

Doha, Qatar :: Michael Voss :: 2038 GMT

US marines are approaching the outskirts of the capital from the south-east.

There's been fierce fighting but overall resistance is described as piecemeal. Reports from the field speak of 2,500 Republican Guards surrendering to advancing troops.

To the north of the capital, there are reports that the road to Tikrit has been closed by heavy bombing and, according to the Americans, there are also special forces operating in the same area.

Coalition forces are starting to tighten the ring around Baghdad.

Doha, Qatar :: Nicholas Witchell :: 2017 GMT

There is no sign of any "unconventional act" against the coalition forces so far tonight, as indicated by an Iraqi minister earlier today.

What that "act" might be is still not clear, maybe a suicide attack of some kind.

I have a sense from one official here that everything stopped at the joint command centre and the personnel there watched the new video of Saddam Hussein when it appeared earlier today.

I'm not an expert but it did look like him. It will buoy up whatever support there is for him in Baghdad.

Kuwait :: Paul Greer :: 2011 GMT

Medicins sans Frontieres has suspended its operation across the whole of Iraq following the disappearance of two team members.

The two, who have not been identified, were working in a hospital in the north-east of Baghdad. They have been missing since Wednesday evening.

Baghdad :: Paul Wood :: 2007 GMT

We heard a lot of firing earlier tonight. It seems to us that it was an attempt to bring down a very low-flying plane. The Iraqis on the ground were firing widely at it, but I would think it was a bit of a futile event.

Belfast :: Mark Simpson :: 1950 GMT

There isn't much which unites Northern Ireland's political parties, but they share a sense of surprise at the news that the American president is coming to meet them this week.

President George W Bush hasn't taken a hands-on role in the peace process and the issue clearly won't be top of his list of priorities when he arrives in Belfast on Monday. But, in between talks on Iraq, Mr Bush and Mr Blair will meet the leaders of the main pro-agreement parties here.

Nasiriya :: Andrew North :: 1858 GMT

American marines here are stepping up efforts to remove any symbols of Saddam Hussein's regime from the city. Posters and murals depicting the Iraqi leader in many different guises are being removed and the marines plan to demolish a large statue of Saddam Hussein in the city centre.

And although there's still widespread looting in Nasiriya, there are signs of people beginning to speak out against the Iraqi regime.

US forces are also carrying out inquiries following the discovery of two burnt-out US army vehicles inside the former Fedayeen headquarters in the city.

Baghdad :: Paul Wood :: 1820 GMT

The Iraqis I watched the broadcast with this evening were in no doubt that this was their president and he was still in Baghdad.

Doha, Qatar :: Nicholas Witchell :: 1808 GMT

In the joint operations room here they will be looking very closely now at those picture of Saddam Hussein on the streets with supporters.

It does look awfully like him but we don't know if it is him or when these pictures were taken.

The analysts will be going through those pictures frame by frame.

Pentagon, Washington D.C. :: Nick Childs :: 1756 GMT

Pentagon officials are saying that while US forces may now be in control of what they're calling Baghdad International Airport, they'll be cautious about when and how they start using it

Pentagon officials say they're still concerned about pockets of resistance, possible snipers and even Iraqi forces armed with portable anti-aircraft missiles.

So even when the US-led forces start using the airport, it will initially probably only be in a limited way, perhaps to bring in extra security forces.

According to the officials they don't believe there are significant Iraqi forces now around the airport, but the overall state of the defences around the city at the moment is unclear, so the Americans are moving forward deliberately they say.

South of Baghdad :: Gavin Hewitt :: 1734 GMT

The capture of the airport is hugely important. It signifies a weakening of the hold of Saddam Hussein over his country.

There is increasing optimism with the American troops too that maybe the battle for Baghdad won't be as severe as they expected.

They hadn't been impressed by the level of resistance they've come up against so far.

Baghdad :: Rageh Omaar :: 1710 GMT

Baghdad is spending a second night in darkness. This is the end of a very dramatic day.

It began with the Iraqis denying that the airport had been taken. Now they're acknowledging it but promising a battle in which few Americans will survive.

The mood in Baghdad has definitely changed in the last 24 hours. There was hardly anyone out on the streets, there were reports of people streaming out of neighbourhoods and the front-line positions near the airport.

Others are staying indoors. It's a much more anxious sense amongst ordinary people in a much changed city.

South of Baghdad :: Gavin Hewitt :: 1646 GMT

We were in an armoured column going through a town south of Baghdad today and a large number of people came out onto the streets.

The fear that they have lived under seemed to be dropping away. Many of them were waving and many brought their families out.

But the people were friendly. They seemed genuine in their appreciation of seeing what is, after all, an invading force.

There seemed to be a real feeling of liberation. It's the first time I have seen that. I think that at last there is an acceptance that there is going to be "regime change".

Doha, Qatar :: Jonathan Marcus :: 1618 GMT

This is not so much a battle for Baghdad as a battle for the centre of gravity of Saddam Hussein's regime. The military goal at the moment is to encircle the Iraqi capital and to isolate the Iraqi leadership.

The battle against the Republican Guard on the city's outskirts has been the inevitable preliminary, and so far, it's been a telling contest.

The Iraqi military has fared badly even by its own standards. All the indications are that its command and control has been seriously damaged.

But this is the moment of greatest danger for US forces approaching the capital.

Kuwait :: Valerie Jones :: 1558 GMT

Today though, two Red Cross trucks went across the border and managed to reach Basra, where they offloaded medical supplies at four hospitals treating war casualties.

The Red Cross went without any military escort. They don't want to be associated with aid distribution by the American and British forces.

Central Iraq :: David Willis :: 1537 GMT

We're about 30 miles from Baghdad now, having made a lot of progress last night.

The journey along the eastern side of the Tigris river revealed a pattern of absolute wreckage. There are lots of burnt-out vehicles and the shells of Iraqi tanks.

We also saw discarded uniforms of the Republican Guard, vacant artillery positions and plenty of bodies.

Baghdad :: Paul Wood :: 1517GMT

I've just come from a news conference with the Iraqi Information minister. He painted a very different picture of this war to the one we get from coalition command.

They say they have deliberately allowed the airport to be taken to cut off the US troops there.

They are promising unconventional warfare tonight - what they call martyrdom operations - after the hours of darkness.

We've had a number of claims from the Iraqis about their successes. I lost count of the number of tanks they say they've destroyed.

But they claim to have the British and American advance cut off in a number of small islands all the way up to and including the airport.

BBC Monitoring, Caversham :: John Andrew :: 1501 GMT

The Iraqi media is not as detailed today. We saw the information minister a few minutes ago. He was extremely tetchy.

That press conference was later than it would normally be held. It is Friday prayers today. That might explain why there was a delay.

There were also two Iraqi ministers at a mosque today with a prominent Muslim clergyman. They seemed to be in denial of the fact that the airport is in US hands.

The cleric told worshippers that the airport hadn't fallen and advised them not to listen to the western media.

Doha, Qatar :: Paul Adams :: 1436 GMT

The lack of Republican Guard defence is astonishing. I think officials here can't quite believe how easy this phase has been.

They're now saying that this air campaign, which had been waged for 10 days, was far more successful than they had imagined it would be.

There was some scepticism, misgivings and uncertainty here about just how successful the air strikes would be.

They appear to have been spectacularly successful. Much twisted metal and dead bodies have been spotted as US troops move forward.

Central Command believes this has worked better than they could have expected.

Silopi, south-east Turkey :: Nick Thorpe :: 1356 GMT

The first emergency convoy from the United Nations World Food Programme has crossed from Turkey into northern Iraq.

The convoy of 23 trucks was the first of many that WFP hope to send into Iraq in the coming weeks.

Loaded with just under 1,000 tonnes of wheat flour, the convoy is making for the town of Dohuk, just 60 kilometres from Silopi.

There, the cargo will be divided up between the three northern regions all of which are under Kurdish control.

There's no refugee or food emergency yet in the north of the country but WFP officials are worried existing supplies could run out soon.

Nasiriya :: Andrew North :: 1341 GMT

All American troops have received orders not to behave as occupiers as they advance.

They're not even supposed to fly the stars and stripes from their vehicles, although many do.

The exception to this is anything connected to the rule of Saddam Hussein.

Marines in Nasiriya have been removing many of the posters and murals of the Iraqi leader across the city.

Southern Iraq :: Caroline Wyatt :: 1326 GMT

We have been hearing from Iraqis today that they are worried about the break-up of society.

They say that now the Baath party has gone from many of these areas, there is nothing to replace it.

They feel there is a lack of law and order. An example is the British water pipe that was installed in Umm Qasr. The British hired local lorry drivers to transport the water away.

We're now being told they are selling the water on. That was never the idea. It seems that some kind of a mafia has stepped in here.

This is such a needy region it is very difficult to see how the British can restore that sense of law and order that was here before.

Central Iraq :: David Willis :: 1313 GMT

The desert sky is black with smoke. I saw dozens of Iraqi tanks engulfed in flames as the marines travelled towards Baghdad.

The wreckage of war was strewn across the highway. It seems as if every piece of Iraqi hardware has been turned to chunks of metal by the marine attacks.

One casualty on the coalition side, a marine with a leg injury. The battles have left many communities along the Tigris deserted. Other than a few farmers who came out to wave the convoy on its way it seems everyone else had left.

Doha, Qatar :: Jonathan Marcus :: 1312 GMT

The airport is very important for two reasons. Symbolically it is a very important installation just outside the Iraqi capital and the Americans are now telling us it is in their possession.

They have now renamed it from Saddam International, calling it Baghdad International Airport.

In practical terms it's important as well. It's a large piece of land with concrete runways and taxiways.

Clearly this could be very useful in terms of flying in additional supplies and troops and could be important for marshalling forces and so on.

Baghdad :: Paul Wood :: 1235 GMT

It's the Muslim day of rest, but even so the streets of Baghdad have never seemed so empty. Few cars, no shops, no preparations to open the usual Friday market by the mosque after prayers.

At one of the city's main teaching hospitals, they showed a refrigerator full of bodies, some of the 42 dead the hospital had received, they said, from the night's bombing.

We saw nothing of military dead and wounded and indeed the Iraqis will tell us nothing of casualties the Iraqi army may be suffering in the battle which is closing on Baghdad. But rumours sweep the city.

From what we are being told, though, the battle for the airport is not quite over. Buses full of soldiers and lorries towing artillery pieces were seen heading down the airport road early this morning.

Doha, Qatar :: Paul Adams :: 1214 GMT

For the first time we appear to have some evidence of a suspicious find. It's worth remembering that all the key biological and chemical sites that Saddam Hussein was suspected of using are all clustered around Baghdad.

It's perhaps not surprising that as coalition forces approach the city we are getting word of a discovery of white powder, of documents to do with chemical warfare. Early days but they're looking into it with some suspicion.

Baghdad :: Rageh Omaar :: 1206 GMT

The city feels very different from what it has done over the last two weeks of this war, when we've seen quite a semblance of normality and people out on the streets. That's not the case today, the streets are deserted.

People here have been expecting a siege of the capital every day since the war began but it's very different now with the reports of American troops within the airport.

What they're really afraid of is that this battle will come to their very neighbourhoods and their streets.

Doha, Qatar :: Jonathan Marcus :: 1146 GMT

It does look as though this is the second suicide bombing we've heard of. It happened about 18 kilometres south-west of the Haditha Dam.

We're told a civilian vehicle approached a checkpoint, a pregnant woman got out of the vehicle, screaming, the Americans say, in fear. At that point the vehicle exploded and it killed three coalition force members. Sadly it seems the pregnant woman and the driver of the vehicle were also killed in the attack. Very tragic.

Southern Iraq :: Caroline Wyatt :: 1120 GMT

We've heard about a morning raid by the 7th Armoured Brigade in Basra, into what they call the shantytown in the city centre. They were engaged by the Iraqi militia who were holding out there. They say they killed eight militiamen in the raid.

It's now clear the British brigades can come in and out relatively freely, and they're having an impact on the resistance still inside the city.

Kuwait City :: Valerie Jones :: 1100 GMT

Cafod, the Catholic aid agency, has a team in Umm Qasr. They say the biggest need is for water. The military authorities have connected a water pipeline to the town, but Cafod say the water is not getting through to all the people who need it. The town's hospital they say, has not had a delivery of water for three days.

Central Iraq :: David Willis :: 1052 GMT

The Republican Guard clearly has not retreated into the city, as we discovered accompanying the US marines along the Tigris river. Some 35 miles south of Baghdad, the marines were ambushed. The resulting firefight lasted more than an hour.

Turkish/Iraqi border :: Nick Thorpe :: 1028 GMT

This first convoy of emergency relief to the north of Iraq does look as though it's going through pretty soon. This first shipment will just be going to the Kurdish-controlled area. The Kurds will be accompanying it. Because big cities like Kirkuk are being bombed now, because the approach roads are mined, none of this aid will reach them at this stage.

South-central Iraq :: Gavin Hewitt :: 1026 GMT

I'm travelling with units from the American 3rd Infantry Division. What we are hearing is that American forces are largely in control of the airport although there does seem to be some resistance.

In the past 48 hours the Americans have been surprised at how light the resistance has been and they do now believe that the Iraqis have probably lost their ability to command and control large units.

Although some of the pockets have fought fiercely, what they're not up against so far is large formations. As they get closer into the city everyone here is talking about whether this is going to be the time when they are going to find determined resistance on a large scale.

Baghdad :: Michael Voss :: 0958 GMT

Coalition forces are in control of most of Baghdad airport, but this sprawling civilian and military complex is far from secure. An Iraqi counter-offensive was repulsed early this morning and the airport remains within artillery range of Iraqi positions inside Baghdad.

Doha, Qatar :: Jonathan Marcus :: 0913 GMT

Let's be really clear in military terms here. Large armoured formations cannot regroup inside Baghdad itself. Clearly very large numbers of individual soldiers, paramilitary forces, security formations, they of course can take refuge in the city. But I don't think that's what the American and British forces are concerned about at the moment.

If you look at this, the whole theme of this thrust up the two river valleys has been to isolate and move on. The aim is to sever the main arteries linking the Iraqi capital.

Paris :: Emma Jane Kirby :: 0841 GMT

France is playing a very difficult game at the moment. It would like some of these post-war Iraqi contracts, but at the same time it doesn't want to say anything that would make French people or the rest of the world think that France is OK with this war.

France will be saying that the United Nations has to play the leading role in any post-war Iraq. They don't want to see the United States lead any post-war administration.

Baghdad :: Andrew Gilligan :: 0809 GMT

From our end, the airport story isn't over yet. We have extremely reliable reports that the airport road remains in Iraqi hands, and troops have defensive positions with their guns ready. Also, that large numbers of reinforcements are pouring down that road.

So although we think the US may well indeed control significant parts of the airport, the story really isn't over there yet.

Baghdad :: Rageh Omaar :: 0707 GMT

There's been no official comment by the Iraqi authorities about the situation at Saddam International Airport. Through the night we saw a series of explosions from different parts, on the outskirts of the city. Some explosions nearer to the centre of the town. The whole power grid throughout the city went down, that remained the case throughout the night.

The case with ordinary Iraqis is that they face a very difficult situation. Last night the war in a very real sense came into their living room. Whether you were someone who was quite well off and rich, or someone who was poor or from a humble background, you were left huddling in the dark with your relatives. It's pretty grim for Iraqis.

Central Iraq :: David Willis :: 0545 GMT

We crossed the Tigris river overnight having engaged in a brief but fierce battle with the Republican Guard. I would have said we were probably about 50 miles or so from the capital.

We were driving most of the night. We've just come past twisted piles of metal by the roadside, armoured vehicles, tanks belonging to the Republican Guard reduced to burnt-out shells, following an attempted ambush which brought a very robust response from the Americans.

It's thought about 50 Republican Guards were involved in the attack - a helicopter has just gone overhead, scrutinising the scene as I speak - we are not clear how many died but the Americans are thought to have fired anti-tank missiles from the air.

The thought is that Saddam Hussein's most loyal forces may have decided there is little point now in massing in open terrain because they will simply leave themselves open to attack by coalition forces. What they may be doing is banding together in small groups in towns and villages to stage these guerrilla-style attacks.

Outside Basra, Southern Iraq :: Clive Myrie :: 0540 GMT

British troops here - Royal Marines from 40 Commando have been trying to win hearts and minds.

There is still a lot of scepticism on the part of local people that coalition forces are here to stay and that they won't desert people, the way they perhaps did in 1991.

That said, troops and tanks turned up to destroy the Baath party headquarters here and it had been trashed the night before. That's seen as a good sign, that perhaps local people are beginning to get the courage to rise up themselves and to openly attack the old leadership.

Nasiriya :: Adam Mynott :: 0537 GMT

There has been intermittent fighting here ever since the marines entered the city over a week ago.

The intention now is to secure the entire town and to eliminate those last pockets of resistance which are few and far between but are still causing problems.

There has been a lot of looting going on. As US marines have moved in, a lot of people have moved out of town but the intention is to stop that lawlessness.

Qatar, Doha :: Paul Adams :: 0525 GMT

I am afraid it is a case of the usual frustrating scenario here with a press centre full of people who know what's going on but are unable to tell us because they are waiting for the American breakfast shows to get on the air before we have press conferences here, at which point the dramatic news about Saddam International Airport will be unveiled to us.

Of course it will all be a bit late in the day then - because we have been hearing directly from reporters travelling with the American troops and indeed American commanders on the ground at the airport, pretty much confirming that the bulk of the airport, possibly as much as 80%, is in American hands.

It's not secured yet in its entirety. They will be going through this very large area - checking all the buildings and structures to see if there are booby traps or any small pockets of Iraqi forces that may still be in that area - but essentially, Saddam International Airport is in American hands

Baghdad :: Andrew Gilligan :: 0522 GMT

The water is off here and that's very serious. People can manage without power to some extent but without water things start to go horribly wrong.

We spoke to the Red Cross yesterday and they said the thought it would be OK for about a week because people have been stockpiling but after that people will start to get ill and will start dying very quickly.

Southern Iraq :: Caroline Wyatt:: 0514 GMT

It has been a relatively peaceful night here in the south.

That doesn't mean that there weren't any exchanges of artillery fire or that both sides haven't engaged each other overnight - that has been happening on a regular basis, especially in the city of Basra.

Iraqi militia have been firing at British positions from the local technical college.

The British are keeping up the pressure around Basra but at the moment there are no plans to storm in there for fear of civilian casualties.

Washington, D.C. :: Justin Webb :: 0235 GMT

The view in Washington is that the speed of the takeover of Baghdad will depend largely on the way the local population reacts to the coalition force. There is optimism at the White House that the Iraqi people are becoming better disposed towards the invading troops, but American officials say they are taking nothing for granted.

The Bush administration has been somewhat bewildered by the variety of reactions among Iraqi people to American and British soldiers, reactions ranging from extreme hostility to warm welcome, so according to defence officials, the mood of the five million people of Baghdad is not being judged in advance.

Instead, it will be tested, probably first of all by a series of raids carried out by special forces troops and armoured reconnaissance units.

Doha, Qatar :: Peter Hunt :: 0155 GMT

A soldier from the US 5th Corps was killed on Thursday afternoon in central Iraq.

He had been close to and examining a destroyed Iraqi tank when colleagues who were nearby mistook him for an enemy soldier and opened fire.

This is the latest so-called "friendly fire" incident that the American military are looking at.

They think an F/A-18 fighter plane may have been brought down by a US Patriot anti-aircraft and anti-missile system and another of their jets may have mistakenly fired on some ground troops, killing one soldier.

In the past, American politicians and military leaders have said such occurrences are very regrettable, but often inevitable in a crowded battle space.

More British service personnel have died from "friendly fire" or in accidents than have been killed in combat during this war.

Doha, Qatar :: Peter Hunt :: 0030 GMT

One military source did sound a note of caution to me. He said the reporters on the ground often see things as if looking down through a straw. They just get a snapshot, and you could have boots on the tarmac of the airport in Baghdad, but not necessarily control the whole airport.

And of course their caution may well be that they don't want to trumpet any triumphs before they're convinced, because at least once before in this war they announced the capture of a location, only to find out minutes later they still had to mop up pockets of resistance.

Where has the opposition gone? The optimistic conclusion - from the point of view of the US-led forces - is that they have successfully pulverised from the air so many Republican Guard units that they have either died, or fled.

Or else, it may be that those who have survived are waiting to have this battle on their own terms. They don't want it out in the desert. They want it in Baghdad, in the urban areas, where they can pick off the forces in guerrilla-style actions.

The movements of those reporting from Baghdad are restricted and their reports are monitored by the Iraqi authorities. Reporters with the US and British military are restricted in what they can say about precise locations or military plans. Click here for more details.



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