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Washington Owns up to Problems in Iraq - 26 March, 2003

Washington has admitted that the Anglo-American forces in Iraq have come up against "a few problems." On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said during an interview with the French television channel TV-3 that there would be successes and setbacks in the course of operations against individual units, irregular forces and gangs of fighters from the Fedayin Iraq organisation.

In his turn, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld claimed that the closer US forces got to Baghdad, the more likely the Iraqis would be to use chemical weapons. US TV companies, citing their sources, yesterday reported that a certain "red line" existed. Once the Americans and British have crossed this, Iraqi forces will allegedly use chemical weapons.

As for the US forces, then on Tuesday they used a so-called "microwave electronic bomb" for the first time in history. The weapon knocked out Iraqi television broadcasting equipment for some time. The Pentagon confirmed that during the blackout, Iraqi television had been targeted by air strikes. However, a few TV reporters could not confirm these comments.

Moreover, reports have surfaced again about the use by the Americans of cluster bombs. They inflict huge casualties, and hundreds of civilians have already been killed in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the USA has suffered more losses.

Airforce Major-General Gregory Stone, who was forty years old, died in the military hospital in Kuwait. He suffered serious wounds when a US sergeant at Camp Pennsylvania attacked a tent there. American serviceman Asan Akbar, who had only recently converted to Islam, threw three grenades into the command tent and then opened fire with an assault rifle. Captain Christopher Seifert died at the scene. He was 27. Another 15 servicemen were wounded.

The bodies of nine American servicemen have been delivered to the Spanish military air and naval base at Rota near Cadiz. The American navy and airforce is using the base in line with a military agreement and the nine bodes will soon be flown to the USA.

Fifteen wounded American soldiers arrived at the Ramstein US base in Germany on Tuesday evening. There are now 30 soldiers being treated at the Landstuhl military hospital for injuries inflicted during the Iraqi campaign.

On Wednesday morning the US Command was forced to cut back sharply on the number of air strikes due to a powerful sandstorm sweeping across Iraqi and Kuwaiti territory. Citing information received from American commanders, CNN reported that their planes should have made 1,400 sorties from airbases in Kuwait over the next few days. However, the weather has forced them to scale back their plans drastically.

The 101st airborne assault division was forced to halt its advance on Baghdad due to the weather. This division has 270 helicopters and guarantees support from the air for the 3rd Infantry Division and marines ahead of them. They were supposed to attack Baghdad in the next few days.

According to CNN, one of the biggest clashes between the Iraqis and Americans took place last night to the south of Baghdad. In the Euphrates valley the 3rd Infantry Division engaged Iraqi units between the towns of An Najaf and Karbala, about 95km away from the capital. The TV company reported that the fight was more or less on equal terms, as the sandstorm prevented US aircraft from providing troops with air cover. CNN claims that the battalion successfully repulsed the Iraqi attack and took between 150-200 servicemen prisoner.

Donald Rumsfeld claims that since the beginning of the war more than 3,500 Iraqi soldiers and officers have been captured. The Pentagon chief added that this figure did not include the thousands from various units that had simply fled.

Meanwhile, 35 Ukrainian servicemen from the 19th radiation-chemical defence battalion have arrived at a military airbase in Kuwait. The Ukrainian battalion is made up of 532 men and 165 pieces if equipment. The Ukrainian defence minister has announced that the battalion is a combat one, and is not on a peacekeeping mission.

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