[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 14 April, 2003, 21:59 GMT 22:59 UK
Reporters' Log: War in Iraq
To bookmark or link to this page, use the address www.bbc.co.uk/reporters
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.

Monday, 14 April

Washington D.C. :: Rob Watson :: 2200GMT

Washington is piling up the pressure on Damascus, the latest salvo from Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who said the US had seen a chemical-weapons test in Syria over the last twelve to fifteen months.

He said the US also had intelligence that some Iraqis had been allowed into Syria, in some cases to stay, in others to move on.

Even the normally dovish Secretary of State, Colin Powell, joined in the act, warning of possible diplomatic, economic or other unspecified measures if Damascus didn't change its ways.

Nasiriya :: Damian Grammaticas :: 2100GMT

With the fighting in Iraq almost over, attention is now turning to the all important second phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom, establishing a new government for the country.

Tallil airbase, where talks are taking place, sits on a dusty plain outside the city of Nasiriya. Behind barbed wire fences, the Americans are orchestrating the very first step towards the formation of a new Iraqi administration to replace the rule of Saddam Hussein.

They're flying in representatives of exiled Iraqi opposition groups to meet local tribal and religious leaders.

With the fighting almost over, the coalition wants to be seen to be moving as quickly as it can to build the peace.

The US and Britain have set an target of having Iraqis running Iraq within weeks. But nothing will be decided in Nasiriya - it is more a question of finding common ground to build on.

Doha :: Malcolm Brabant :: 2027GMT

Tribal, community, religious and opposition leaders are due to meet Jay Garner, the retired US general who will effectively be Iraq's governor until the country is ready to run its own affairs.

The US says this forum is the first of many and that there will be substantial debate before Iraq holds its version of Afghanistan's loya jirga to determine the shape of its interim authority.

There is concern that Iraqi relief at the demise of Saddam Hussein may quickly mutate into profound resentment over what many perceive as an American occupation.

So while the Americans have yet to discover who really are Iraq's potential new leaders, they're anxious that the interim authority should get to work as quickly as possible.

Basra :: Peter Dobbie :: 2014GMT

The situation in Basra is getting better, but so much more needs to be done.

Doctors are having to perform complicated medical procedures with no anaesthetic. We're talking about seven year olds having limbs amputated with no anaesthetic.

Washington :: Rob Watson :: 2007GMT

The Bush administration has said it will consider diplomatic, economic and other measures against Syria.

It has also repeated allegations that Syria is harbouring Iraqi leaders and developing weapons of mass destruction.

At the White House, presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer, repeatedly dodged the question of whether Syria might be next for US military action - intentional ambiguity clearly designed to put the frighteners on Damascus.

CentCom, Qatar :: Malcolm Brabant :: 1955GMT

Sandstorms permitting, a so-called Big Tent town hall meeting will take place in an air base near the southern city of Nasiriya.

Tribal, community, religious and opposition leaders have been asked to share their vision for a democratic Iraq and to suggest the shape of an interim authority.

The Americans are trying to bring together potential community leaders who've stayed in the country during Saddam Hussein's dictatorship as well as opposition figures who've returned home, in some cases after decades in exile.

But it's not going to be a smooth start. An important Shia group is boycotting the meeting on the grounds that it's been organized by General Tommy Franks.

Nasiriya :: Damian Grammaticas :: 1824GMT

The external Iraqi opposition has previously presented a united front, but they will all be vying for power in the new regime. So we'll have religious groups, ethnic groups, and people from many different parts of this country, all looking for a stake in what happens next.

Washington D.C. :: Nick Childs :: 1813GMT

The Administration here are being very careful not to say that the war is over. Nevertheless, General MacCrystal here was saying just a few minutes ago, that if there were to be any last major combat with cohesive units, it was going to be in Tikrit, and that hasn't happened.

They are significantly adjusting their forces though. Two out of five aircraft carriers involved in the air war are now heading home.

But on weapons of mass destruction, there is clearly no smoking gun yet.

Baghdad :: Lyse Doucet :: 1801GMT

Baghdad by night is still not a completely safe place. A short time ago in the neighbourhood next to us I heard the sound of small arms fire. But by daylight hours today we saw the first moves by US marines to move out of a completely combat operation to one of policing, on the streets of this city.

Baghdad :: Richard Galpin :: 1720GMT

The first goal of the joint Iraqi/Coalition patrols is to get their vehicles back, most of which have been stolen. And they're also reported to be detaining looters, and anyone in vehicles with furniture or food goods which clearly doesn't belong to them are being taken to the Police college.

Tikrit :: Fergal Keane :: 1702GMT

The marines still expect the possibility of guerrilla attacks and fighting here. And one question-if the Republican Guard and regime leaders aren't here, where are they?

A huge number of people here are either related directly to Saddam Hussein, involved in business with his sons, or politically involved with the leadership of the Baath party. They had no interest in hanging around to be arrested by US troops, much less welcome them.

Cairo :: Heba Saleh :: 1650GMT

Tomorrow will see the first meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council since the demise of the regime of Saddam Hussein. The Gulf countries saw his regime as a threat ever since his 1991 invasion of Kuwait. But of course their position has been ambiguous, as they were opposed to this war because they were worried about it's impact on stability in their own countries.

I think what they're likely to be discussing is the shape of the new Iraq that they would like to see.

Tikrit :: Caroline Hawley :: 1642GMT

Saddam Hussein's picture still hangs from the streetlights here but American tanks are now parked in the driveway of his palace. The elaborate domed gateway to the vast palace now has an American flag flying over it.

Baghdad :: Ben Brown :: 1630GMT

This hospital in Saddam City is still open, many others have been closed because of looting. Doctor's prowl around with guns to protect their hospital. There is shooting in the streets nearby as young Shiite's clash with gunmen loyal to Saddam Hussein.

Down in the hospital yard we saw a child who hadn't made it. His body wrapped up in a carpet and covered in flies.

Amman :: Martin Asser :: 1619GMT

I may be giving away a trade secret here, but the BBC contingent in Jordan is having a lot of high-quality "lobby time" at the moment.

Most of us are waiting for the go-ahead to cross overland to Baghdad but we've been repeatedly delayed by dangers on the way and acute accommodation problems over there.

Not that hanging around in hotel lobbies can't be beneficial sometimes. I've just bumped into my old friend and colleague Saad Hatar of the BBC Arabic Service, who was recently in Baghdad.

As we were talking, an Iraqi lady approached assuming, correctly in my case, that we might be heading for Iraq and wondering whether one of us could deliver a message to her brother, a bone specialist called Dr Sinan Hassan al-Azawi at Baghdad's Kazimiya hospital, whom she's not heard from for weeks.

She doesn't want to return herself to Iraq, she says, "not while it is occupied by foreign forces ".

After promising to try to help, we chat a bit longer and it turns out that the lady and I both took the same course in London, Arabic-English translation with Malcolm Edwards at Birkbeck College. So she asks me to send a message to Dr Edwards too.

Basra :: Ryan Dilley :: 1553GMT

There was the sound of gunfire around Basra this morning again.

The military commanders here checked to see where it was coming from. They confirmed it was not from the British troops. They believe it is locals feuding.

People in the city are starting to come back out on to the streets now, slowly venturing out. They are still concerned about security on the streets.

The electricity is returning to many parts of the city. We have it now in the presidential palace complex where we have made a temporary home.

Baghdad :: Lyse Doucet :: 1531GMT

There are still looters on the rampage. At a hospital in the east of the city today doctors and volunteers were involved in a two hour stand-off with armed looters.

The looters wanted to enter the hospital and steal medical equipment. Not all of the hospitals in Baghdad are under threat - there are US marines posted at some of them. But the city is just too big. It's a city of 5 million people and it's impossible to make sure everything is safe.

Basra :: Andrew Harding :: 1519GMT

The water and electricity are slowly coming back here. Today we saw remarkable scenes where a water pipe was turned back on, but there was a leak in it. Water was gushing 30 feet up in the air.

Tikrit :: Dumeetha Luthra :: 1512GMT

The Americans are afraid there still may be Saddam loyalists hiding out in the city. One soldier said to me: "The locals aren't helping. They aren't hindering, but they're not helping either."

There still is a lot of loyalty to Saddam Hussein here. If you ask the Tikiritis, they say, "Well wherever he is, I hope he's alive. Even if I knew where he was, I wouldn't be telling you."

Amman :: Claire Marshall :: 1450GMT

UNESCO believes around 170,000 items have been plundered from Iraq's National Archaeological Museum in Baghdad since the war began. This museum is believed to be one of the five most historically-important in the world. It used to house artefacts dating back to 8000 B.C., including some of the earliest examples of writing.

The UN agency wants immediate armed surveillance of this site. There are fears that what on the surface appears to be opportunist theft, could in fact be the work of organised crime gangs.

Jerusalem :: James Reynolds :: 1419GMT

Israel's two key demands of Syria are the removal of Syrian-backed Hezbollah fighters from the northern border with Lebanon, and the closure of Damascus offices of Palestinian armed groups. Along with those demands are Israel's concerns that Syrian or Hezbollah missiles are simply too close to Israel and should be pulled back as well.

Ariel Sharon has often said in the last few months that after Iraq, Syria and indeed Libya should be dealt with. They believe that now is the time to put their case.

Israel's strategy is fascinating at the moment. On the one hand you have the Defence Minister saying in an interview that everyone needs to get tough with Syria. But yesterday in an interview with another Israeli newspaper, the prime minister Ariel Sharon gave some conciliatory tones vis--vis the peace process with the Palestinians.

Tikrit :: Dumeetha Luthra :: 1408GMT

Essentially the Coalition forces are trying to imprint themselves on the city, going from house to house looking for any remnants of the old guard here. The Americans seem quite frustrated. They're a bit afraid that once they relax there might be a counter-offensive from somewhere.

CentCom, Doha :: Jon Brain :: 1348GMT

Iraq is made up of different tribal, ethnic and religious groups. The Regime, while it was in power, kept a lid on the situation, but now it's been removed old scores are being settled. There's been a lot of tension because of this in Najaf.

Cairo :: Heba Saleh :: 1337GMT

The Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that Syria still had questions to answer.

It's clear Syria will come under increasing pressure from the United States over a range of issues, including it's support for the Lebanese Shiite militia, Hezbollah.

The threatening tone of Coalition officials against Syria will only confirm the Arab world's worst fears; that the US has invaded Iraq in order to make the region safer for Israel.

Basra :: Andrew Harding :: 1321GMT

The looting has begun to reverse itself in that people are slowly beginning to bring looted items back to some of the mosques after the Imam's said they wouldn't be able to pray unless they brought back stolen goods. Things like fridges and bags of flour are beginning to pile up outside at least some of the mosques.

There's this huge sense of impatience from the civilian population. They're turning on the British, saying "you invaded, you got rid of Saddam's regime, you should have been ready straight away to get our water and electricity back".

CentCom, Doha :: Paul Adams :: 1316GMT

What officials have said right from the start is that they're here to fight a war. Now that the war is essentially won, the business of looking for these weapons of mass destruction really begins in earnest.

There is the freedom perhaps, of the scientists to finally speak out, to not feel intimidated by Saddam Hussein's regime.

Baghdad :: Lyse Doucet :: 1306GMT

Slowly life is starting to get back some of the law and order. American marine's are trying to sign up Iraqi policemen to try to get them out patrolling the streets.

Thousands overwhelmed the police college, and a few hundred were taken on.

Basra :: Rupert Wingfield-Hayes :: 1228GMT

The Republic Hospital on the western side of Basra is the city's oldest and biggest. In a strange irony it was actually built by the British the last time they swept into this country, in the 1920's.

The distinct smell of putrefying flesh fills the air.

Even the most basic things are completely gone. Clean water to wash wounds and make Plaster of Paris for setting broken bones. Amputations, all too common in a war zone, are now being carried out without anaesthetic.

I saw one little girl, no more than six or seven, screaming in agony as her leg was put in traction.

Basra :: Andrew Harding :: 1217GMT

The security situation here in Basra is beginning to stabilise, but humanitarian problems have barely been addressed. There's a huge amount of work that needs to be done, and it's not being done yet.

Tikrit :: Fergal Keane :: 1115GMT

This is as close as it comes to saying the war is over - Saddam Hussein's home town in the hands of the US Marines.

Along the road we saw the remnants of Iraq resistance - some burnt out vehicles, trenches abandoned by their defenders, uniforms and supplies scattered around.

There are still some remnants of Iraqi forces in the area but there was none of the expected hostility from locals. Those we spoke with said they were glad Saddam was gone, glad the Americans were here.

Kuwait :: Bridget Kendall :: 1100GMT

According to Mr Straw, the message from leaders in Bahrain and Kuwait so far has been of considerable relief that Saddam Hussein has gone, but also real anxiety about what comes after.

British military officials here in Kuwait have told Mr Straw the security situation in south-east Iraq is now stabilising gradually, but more practical problems now need solving.

Not just clean water and power restored, but what currency to use, for example, to pay any new police force or any other Iraqi teachers and doctors returning to work. Bringing in the US dollar could be controversial.

Those answers may come in Mr Straw's meeting with the retired US general Jay Garner this afternoon. He has yet to fully assume the task of running Iraq. Britain is hoping to be involved more closely in that process, a step aimed at preventing the US Pentagon from taking over the government of post-war Iraq wholesale.

Nasiriya :: Damien Grammaticas :: 1034GMT

We're not going to have the leaders of all the different factions here tomorrow to meet with the American administration.

Those who are coming will meet at an air base.

The discussions will be between the Americans and opposition groups.

I think the Americans will put forward their thoughts and plans and they will then discuss from there.

The Iraqi people want the Americans to stabilise the situation, restore security and then leave the Iraqi people to run Iraq.

Tikrit :: Caroline Hawley :: 0943GMT

American tanks are now parked outside Saddam Hussein's biggest palace in Tikrit. Helicopters are hovering over its domed gateway, which is flanked by a giant bronze statue of Saddam Hussein on a horse.

It was here in his birthplace that Saddam Hussein was expected to make his last stand but Tikrit appears now to be under American control. The Marines say they have faced resistance here and that twenty Iraqi's were killed in fighting.

Baghdad :: Lyse Doucet :: 0910GMT

There are reports this morning that a very important library, of the Ministry of Religious Endowment was up in flames.

If that report is true it would be very sad indeed because it's a very important part of Iraq's heritage and it's right next to the National Museum which was looted last week and very precious artefacts were taken away.

Tikrit :: Dumeetha Luthra :: 0858GMT

The coalition forces are absolutely everywhere. They are surrounding the place, they are in the centre of the city, there are helicopters flying around everywhere.

What I'm told they are doing is reconnaissance missions to see if there are any suspicious looking buildings with sandbag bunkers outside and then the armoured vehicles will go in forward and check out these buildings.

Forces I have spoken to today have said it has all been quiet, although there is fighting apparently outside further to the north where it seems loyalists have been pushed out of Tikrit and towards the north.

CentCom, Qatar :: Fergal Keane :: 0840GMT

We've now just entered the outskirts of Saddam Hussein's ancestral village of Uja in Iraq and we're travelling alongside a large column of American troops who are travelling towards Tikrit. Certainly on the outskirts of the town there was no sign of any fighting.

People are not coming out onto the streets to cheer the Americans here but there has been no open hostility.

Moving into this village is a major, major moment for the troops advancing - certainly in symbolic terms - because this was one of the places where Saddam Hussein was expected to flee.

During the last Gulf War it was where he sent his family and many close relatives.

The fact that American troops are now here will I think convince many Iraqis that we really are seeing the final dying days of Saddam Hussein.

CentCom, Qatar :: Malcolm Brabant :: 0825GMT

The Americans now have effective control of Tikrit.

Tanks and armoured vehicles rolled into the main central square having encountered minimal resistance.

What had previously been billed as possibly the last stand of Saddam's regime, failed to materialise.

Elements of the Republican Guard had melted away and defence of Saddam's birthplace was led by hardline Arab fighters from outside Iraq equipped with little more than machine-guns and rocket propelled grenades.

The seizure of Tikrit means that the Americans now control every major urban centre in the country. Declarations of victory will not be forthcoming yet, but the conventional war is rapidly coming to an end.

CentCom, Qatar:: Paul Adams :: 0815GMT

In terms of weapons of mass destruction, very little of any consequence has been found, but I don't think we should be too surprised about that.

People said here even before the campaign began that first we were going there to fight a war to remove the regime that was hiding the weapons of mass destruction and then the real business of looking for that weaponry would begin in earnest.

There are teams that will be more people on the ground in the coming weeks, they are hoping that finally Iraqi scientists, who may have felt inhibited before, might now be willing to talk.

Obviously it would be a huge embarrassment and politically very damaging, if nothing had been unearthed in Iraq to support the very reason that Britain and America decided to go to war in the first place, but there is still a great confidence here, that those weapons of mass destruction will be found.

Basra :: Andrew Harding :: 0805GMT

In an attempt to get things back to normal, the British are going out on patrols accompanied by small groups of three or four Iraqi policeman. They are stopping at intersections in the middle of town and basically doing a bit of traffic control.

They are pulling over cars and checking for looted goods or senior figures of the old regime.

The British accept that this is a slow process and to a large degree a PR exercise - it's getting these police back on the streets, judging the reaction of the public and getting them used to the idea that perhaps some of the old people who were in charge of the police under Saddam Hussein may be able to do the job again in this new, strange emerging era.

US CentCom Doha :: Malcolm Brabant :: 0803GMT

With the taking of Tikrit without much opposition, the Americans now control every major urban centre in the country.

But there are fears that as the conventional war comes to a close, a guerrilla war is about to begin.

Americans have now also taken the town of Al-Kahim on the Syrian border after fighting for it for two weeks.

Bahrain :: Bridget Kendall :: 0753GMT

The British foreign secretary Jack Straw arrives in Kuwait today, part of a sweeping tour through the Gulf to consult with Arab leaders on Iraq's future.

His visit has also taken him here to Bahrain and will also include Oman and Saudi Arabia.

But the key consultations will be a face to face meeting later today with Jay Garner, the retired US general appointed by the American Pentagon to run post-war Iraq until an interim administration of Iraqis can take over.

Now the war is drawing to a close, Britain's focus is what comes after, relief that Saddam Hussein has gone, extreme anxiety at the lawlessness that's followed and worry that it should not be allowed to slip into civil strife that could lead to Iraq's disintegration.

But Britain has its own concerns. How far the Bush administration, and particularly the Pentagon, is prepared to give the outside world through the United Nations a real say in who will run a new Iraq.

The other worry is Syria, and fears it may be harbouring senior Iraqis.

US CentCom Doha :: Paul Adams :: 0714GMT

Officials here are saying that after Tikrit that is essentially it.

I'm sure we're going to see fire-fights, sniping, perhaps suicide bombs and that kind of thing for weeks if not months to come, but in terms of the proper war-fighting business they reckon that Tikrit is the end of the story.

Baghdad :: David Willis :: 0708GMT

Whilst we're seeing here is the Palestine Hotel becoming a centre for protest and celebration and we have both this morning.

There's a quite a large anti-American protest going on but also a pro-American protest, so mixed messages from the people of Baghdad.

There are still pockets of looting going on here but I have to say the looters have run out of steam, simply because they have run out of things to loot.

Baghdad :: David Willis :: 0620GMT

The looting of hospitals seems to have abated, but clearly the priority for the troops here is to get the security system under control.

Joint patrols of US marines and the people of Baghdad - some of the police volunteers and the security volunteers who came forward over the weekend and were vetted by the US marines - are due start later today.

It will be very interesting to see if that works - because it is a bit of an experiment - untried and untested.

The marines when I spoke to them said these are beat policemen - they are not members of the security forces, the people who were so hated during the regime of Saddam Hussein but it does remain to be seen how their appearance back on the streets will go down with the ordinary people in Baghdad.

There was one man who turned up at a meeting yesterday who made a speech and was booed because he was a former member of the Baath party and largely suspected by others of being involved in atrocities.

So weeding out wheat from the chaff is a real challenge for the US forces and that's something they have to do if the force on the street is to be credible

US CentCom Doha :: Paul Adams :: 0620GMT

Humanitarian relief is getting into Umm Qasr but at the moment most of the is being distributed in the south of the country.

I'm slightly further north in Nasiriya and yesterday a team of American officials arrived up there to assess how safe it was to bring humanitarian aid further into the country.

They decided that at the moment they still don't want to move aid convoys any further into the country while there is still risk of ambush.

US CentCom Doha :: Dominic Hughes :: 0553GMT

The freed American prisoners included two Apache helicopter pilots, and some members of the mechanical recovery unit that got lost during the advance - they took the wrong turn and then were taken prisoner.

They were held in quite rough conditions and were forced to appear on Iraqi TV.

It seems some of their captors fled in the face of the advancing US marines and some of them decided to turn them over to the US troops when they arrived.

It is a great joy to see some of your own coming back having been released, but also it is encouraging to see Iraqis beginning to co-operate now with US forces

Baghdad :: Andrew Gilligan :: 0550GMT

Some calm and even normality is returning to parts of Baghdad. In the Karada district, even a few non-essential shops like shoe shops are opening.

But in other parts of Baghdad, including the old city, looting and quite heavy gunfire continues.

Another area around the old Information Ministry has been completely wrecked by the looters, with buildings not just stripped but burnt out and demolished.

Three of four short fire fights erupted around the Palestine Hotel, the main media base, last night, as sporadic resistance continued and the US responded with heavy fire.

Nasiriya :: Adam Mynott :: 0540GMT

US sources in southern Iraq say there was an attempted breakout by Iraqi prisoners of war at a detention camp in Umm Qasr in the south-east of Iraq.

A number of seven thousand Iraqi prisoners of war who were held in this detention camp in Umm Qasr attacked their prison guards on Sunday using rocks and other implements they could lay their hands on.

According to US sources, no prisoners of war escaped, but a number of prisoners of war were said to be injured as the guards on duty brought the situation under control.

Kirkuk :: Dumeetha Luthra :: 0527GMT

Ethnic tensions are growing in the city.

The returning Kurds have been trying to evict Arabs living in their old homes. But overall the city is calm.

The Kurdish troops have stepped up their withdrawal from Kirkuk. there are cars on the streets, people walking around.

CentCom, Qatar:: Dominic Hughes :: 0457GMT

US forces are reported to have taken up positions in the central square of Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit, the last major city to fall under the control of coalition forces.

Their advance into the town comes after some sporadic but heavy fighting, although not the final stand by forces loyal to Saddam Hussein that some had predicted.

CentCom, Qatar:: Dominic Hughes :: 0310GMT

Frankly, it was only a matter of time before US forces entered Tikrit, after days of bombardment aimed at driving away the remaining Iraqis forces.

This was where a lot of people were expecting that regime loyalists would stage their last great fight, but it seems the US is entering the city without any great difficulties.

US planners want to make sure all the Baath Party regime is well and truly removed from Iraq.

Baghdad:: Owen Bennett-Jones :: 0230GMT

There is only a very small part of this city which is firmly under control of the Americans, and where it is safe to go around.

Journalists going to most parts of the city have to travel in armoured vehicles for fear of being fired upon.

There is very much uncertainty in the air, and people don't want to be speak openly or to be identified with a particular point of view.

The US military are saying they will have joint patrols with the Iraqi police.

But it will quite a long time before there are significant numbers of police turning up for work, so far as I can gather.

Washington D C :: Steve Kingstone :: 0015GMT

There are some in the Bush administration who do have deeper designs on "democratising" the Middle East, reshaping that part of the world.

Whether President Bush shares these designs is not clear - certainly he does not at the moment.

Now his focus is firmly on Iraq, eventually it will turn back to the American economy and seeking re-election next year. But there are some pretty influential voices here in Washington, who may ultimately call for action against Syria.

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.



Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific