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Last Updated:  Monday, 7 April, 2003, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
Inside Saddam's palace
US troops relax inside palace
Troops took time to relax
The capture by US forces of one of Saddam Hussein's palaces in central Baghdad has, for the first time, yielded its secrets to the outside world.

The vast, imposing complex - previously forbidden to Iraqis other than the highest echelons of the regime - was uncovered by American troops who scoured its rooms and floors.

The occupation of the palace was highly symbolic - and US troops filmed themselves inside it.

The building has been badly damaged and stripped of personal possessions by its fleeing occupants.

But the trappings of opulence are still evident - ornate fittings and lavish decor provide testament that this once served as one of the Iraqi ruler's seats of power.

The palace, with its stunning views of the Tigris River, was apparently used for residential, rather than administrative, purposes.

Large bedrooms with hotel-style beds and imitation French baroque furniture lie empty, covered with a film of dust.

Almost every room had several televisions.

A roof-top swimming pool, where the palace's guests relaxed in more care-free times, is also gone, obliterated by American bombs.

Stationery and stereos

Throughout the building, pictures of Saddam Hussein smiled down as troops from the US 3rd Infantry Division passed by.

US soldiers in palace reception room

In the many offices, soldiers added ornate boxes of stationery and a portable stereo to their inventory.

Some of the rooms have been reduced to rubble; others remain intact, including a large chamber replete with a table and dozens of neatly positioned high-backed chairs.

All over, palace curtains are strewn across the floor, shredded by explosions which blew in the windows.

The palace kitchen which once catered for the Iraqi dictator is now bereft of food, its cupboards left bare, although water still runs from the taps.

Outside, flowers and shrubs cover the palace grounds, but the fountains which formed the centrepieces of the gardens have run dry.

A pavilion with a barbecue stands abandoned.

The only smell of charcoal now is that which wafts from the smouldering furnishings inside what was once a proud symbol of Saddam Hussein's rule.

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