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Last Updated: Friday, 18 April, 2003, 00:31 GMT 01:31 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.

Thursday, 17 April

Washington D C :: Jon Leyne :: 2220GMT

The issue of lifting UN sanctions on Iraq puts the US Government in direct conflict with Russia and potentially other members of the UN Security Council.

According to the letter of UN resolutions, sanctions are not supposed to be lifted from Iraq until the country is declared free of weapons of mass destruction.

Russia has insisted that provision still applies.

But the State Department says the need for sanctions went away with the fall of Saddam Hussein.

So the embargo will be one of a series of issues to be resolved in complicated negotiations at the United Nations over the future of Iraq.

A compromise might yet be possible.


Basra :: Jennifer Glass :: 1910GMT

It is a complicated business getting a country back on its feet again.

British engineers shut down the oil refinery in Basra when the war started to prevent sabotage or damage.

Now American and Iraqi engineers are trying to figure out how to get the refinery working again.

Oil is not yet flowing from the huge Ramaila field in southern Iraq and without it, essential services are crippled.


Baghdad :: Richard Galpin :: 1620GMT

Abu Ghraib prison is a huge complex on the outskirts of the capital.

It is believed to be the largest jail in the Middle East. Today it stands empty and stripped bare by looters, but not everything has gone.

Inside the execution chamber, two hangman's ropes are still suspended from the ceiling.

The lives of thousands of Saddam Hussein's opponents were brought to an end here.


Basra :: Rupert Wingfield Hayes :: 1616GMT

For British forces controlling the streets of Basra, the last few days have been a vindication.

Colonel Chris Vernon of Britain's Seventh Armoured Brigade says you've only got to look out on the streets of the city to see that the doom merchants were wrong.

"Shops opening, taxis operating, markets operating, people out on the streets, cars moving in far greater quantities than they were for example when we came in here. All those signs are of normality."

It's hard to deny that things are improving fast in Basra. Local people no longer complain of the looting. Instead, it's clean water they are now demanding.


Kirkuk :: Dumeetha Luthra :: 1407GMT

We are expecting human rights groups to arrive here sometime this week to tell us whether the mass graves are of Iraqi soldiers or Kurds.

At the moment we only have eye-witness accounts. The Iraqis are saying these are the graves of unknown soldiers of the Iran-Iraq war, and the Kurds are saying they are the bodies of murdered Kurds.

A lot of Kurds were killed in the eighties during Saddam Hussein's regime of ethnic cleansing. So they could be Kurdish victims.


Qatar, US Centcom :: Malcolm Brabant :: 1249GMT

Saddam Hussein's half-brother's capture is of huge significance for both the Americans and human rights organisations. American agents questioning him will be trying to tap into his extensive knowledge of the inner workings of Saddam's organisation.

Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti is fairly low down on the coalition's list of fifty five most wanted Iraqis though. Although he was an advisor to Saddam Hussein, his loyalty was questioned by Saddam's younger son, Qusay, who accused him of plotting to overthrow the regime.

But human rights groups regard him as one of the most enthusiastically sadistic members of Saddam Hussein's inner circle.

Eyewitness statements obtained by the British organisation Indict say that he personally shot more than three hundred people at a military camp and that he engaged as a torturer pulling out victims' nails, administering electric shocks and that he stabbed one prisoner with a screwdriver.


Baghdad :: Martin Asser :: 1122GMT

I've just arrived in Baghdad after a seven hour journey from the Jordanian border.

As we'd been led to expect there was American control over the entire route. We also saw an Australian military convoy in the desert.

But on the road out of Baghdad we saw hundreds - literally hundreds - of vehicles coming out filled with looted goods. They could barely move they were so loaded down. We saw a fire engine weighed down with steel rods.

When we got into the actually city we saw buildings that had been reduced to rubble.

We saw American soldiers patrolling the streets in small numbers and lots of Baghdad residents out strolling around. All quite normal except for the incredible amount of rubble and debris all over what used to be very clean streets.


Kirkuk :: Dumeetha Luthra :: 1110GMT

There has been no indepedent verification of who has been buried in the mass graves as of yet. But the Kurds are saying that these are the graves of Kurdish people killed by Saddam Hussein.

I walked around and saw some 2000 mounds. I've been told it took one and half months to bury the bodies. We're being told they were put here in 1988, during the Iran-Iraq war.

I spoke to one man who said he was told to make coffins for unknown soldiers killed in the Iran-Iraq war. But he grew suspicious when he saw one of the bodies dressed in a Kurdish uniform.

The site is now being sealed off.


Kuwait City :: Anita McVeigh :: 1043GMT

The positive news is that the little boy who was flown to Kuwait for surgery, Ali Ismail Abbas, is doing better now. I spoke to one of his surgeons who said that doctors have been giving him blood transfusions.

The badly burnt area of his chest and abdomen is looking ok, there is no sign of bleeding. They've put a donor skin over that area, and in a few days they hope to do more surgery to graft on some of his own skin.

Perhaps the best indication that he's doing ok is that last night Ali was asking for food and a television, so he could see what was going on.


Baghdad :: Caroline Hawley :: 1028GMT

Residents here are telling us about the terror of the regime, about disappearances, and killings.

In Tikrit I spoke to a police officer who told me he was sacked and jailed after he tried to prevent a relative of Saddam's from raping a woman.

People are holding out hope that prisoners held by the regime are still alive and languishing in underground prisons. I'm afraid those people may not still be alive.


Baghdad :: Caroline Hawley :: 0902GMT

The lights and water here are still not all working, but the US marines say that by tomorrow they should have half the power supplies restored.

Tommy Franks say that within a weeks things should be much better - and they'd better be. Today there is a demostration by Iraqi people calling for essential services to be restored.

The US has now posted marines outside some of the hospitals to stop looting, but when I came yesterday from Tikrit to Baghdad, I saw people looting an arms depot - just helping themselves to guns.

So there is still a great concern about law and order.


Syney, Australia :: Red Harrison :: 0713GMT

The Australian government says it plans to withdraw Australia's army, navy and air force units from Iraq. The defence minister, Robert Hill, says more than half of Australia's troops will be home by the end of June.


Washington :: Nick Childs :: 0659GMT

The Pentagon has announced that the war in Iraq has cost America $20bn so far - that's more than twelve and a half billion pounds. And the cost of keeping troops in the country is being put at $2bn a month


Western Iraq :: Martin Asser :: 0350GMT

We've just crossed over the border into Iraq.

It is under the control of American troops, with about a dozen US soldiers using the border as a checkpoint.

The cars queue up in no-man's land between Jordan and Iraq and the Americans check passports and have a look at your luggage, then wave you through.

There is still a bronze statue of Saddam Hussein on horseback, with a bronze missile at each hoof of the horse.

All other traces of Saddam have been erased. Portraits have had their faces painted out and insulting graffiti daubed on them. There was a sign saying "God protect Iraq and Saddam Hussein", but the last three words have been crossed out.

As we crossed, there was an aid convoy waiting to go through - 50 World Food Programme trucks carrying flour.

The drivers were mainly Palestinians, from Jordan. They were very worried about the journey ahead, particulary an area called al-Ramadi, 70km from Baghdad, where we've been told that we might face some trouble.

The WFP drivers have been told that the Americans will escort them from al-Ramadi into Baghdad.

Now we can see open country ahead and the road looks clear - a well-kept motorway with two lanes in each direction.


Al-Karameh, Jordanian-Iraqi border :: Martin Asser :: 0130GMT

After several days' delay, we're just about to enter Iraqi territory.

It's first light and we're hoping to cross the 550km ahead of us to Baghdad as quickly as possible.

The signs are that the road is much more secure than of late but only last Sunday a journalist was dragged from his car at gunpoint by a group of armed men and robbed about 70km outside Baghdad.

Our driver who made the trip 48 hours ago says US forces have now brought the area more under control although we may still be shot at on the way.

The thinking is that the size of our convoy - 10 vehicles travelling at high speed - will deter any attackers.


London :: Keith Adams :: 0030GMT

Ahmed Chalabi is the first major opposition leader to arrive in Baghdad since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime last week.

It was a significant day for him, returning after 45 years away. An aide said the first thing he will do is visit the house where he grew up.

Then he'll begin a round of meetings with community, religious and business figures. Mr Chalabi is leader of the Iraqi National Congress, and has many influential friends in Washington - more, some say, than he has in Iraq.





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