Franks meets with top aides at Iraq palace

Bush urges U.N. to lift economic sanctions `now that Iraq is liberated'

Troops raid home of `Dr. Germ'

U.S. forces engage in gunfights in Mosul for 2nd day, killing at least 3

War in Iraq

April 17, 2003|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, arrived in Baghdad for the first time yesterday, as American troops fought deadly gunfights for the second day in the fractious northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

Other U.S. forces fanned out from the capital, seeking to pacify cities and towns and receiving the surrender of some Iraqi army units.

President Bush, meanwhile, urged the United Nations, now that Saddam Hussein's regime has fallen, to end the economic sanctions that were imposed on Iraq in 1990. Once a new democratic government is in place in Baghdad, Bush said, "the lives of the Iraqi people will be better than anything they have known for generations."

In his visit to Baghdad, Franks headed to Abu Ghurayb North Palace, one of Hussein's many sprawling estates. Greeting soldiers and commanders, he toured the palace rooms, which were littered with broken china and other debris.

"I wanted to get our commanders together in Baghdad - the center of gravity for this regime while it stood," Franks said. "And, as we all recognize, it stands no longer.

"Our forces will be here operating in this country for some period of time in order to provide more stability so a new government, a government chosen by the Iraqi people, can take its place."

At the palace, Franks held a video-teleconference with Bush and made a phone call to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, providing both with an update on military action. Though there are no longer major combat operations, the general said, there are still pockets of dangerous resistance that must be rooted out.

Franks and his top commanders puffed on cigars as they walked through Hussein's home. He quipped, "It's the oil-for-palace program," a play on the U.N. oil-for-food program, which was intended to provide food and medical supplies for Iraqis.

Despite vociferous complaints from many Iraqi citizens about a lack of essential needs such as water and sewer service, Franks said that some cities were returning to normal.

Bush, speaking at a Boeing fighter-jet factory in St. Louis that he said helped defeat "a ruthless enemy," avoided saying the war was over. But he referred to it at times in the past tense. "Now that Iraq is liberated," he said, "the United Nations should lift economic sanctions on that country."

The White House said the administration would soon push for a U.N. resolution to lift the sanctions, allowing Iraq to resume international trade and generate needed revenue.

Meanwhile, for the second day, U.S. forces engaged in gunfights in Mosul, leaving at least three dead. Those shootings came as a top American officer acknowledged that U.S. forces were responsible for shooting seven of the 15 people who were killed there Tuesday.

Mosul, located in an oil-rich area and populated by a mix of Kurds and Arabs, once again illustrated the difficulties and dangers of trying to secure the country.

In yesterday's clashes, at least three Iraqis were killed and at least 11 were wounded by gunshots near government buildings, a hospital official said. Witnesses said that U.S. troops fired on a crowd from the rooftops of the buildings. But Marine Capt. James Jarvis said that "there was no firing on the crowd today."

Someone "started shooting on our Marines," Jarvis said. "We subsequently returned fire. We were engaged by two rooftop locations. We were fired upon and took well-aimed fire."

Pentagon and Central Command officials had no immediate comment on yesterday's shootings. But Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, speaking to reporters at U.S. Central Command in Qatar, said that U.S. forces killed up to seven people in Mosul on Tuesday when they returned fire on demonstrators who were shooting guns and hurling rocks.

Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, vice director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that U.S. and British forces were moving away from combat in many areas of the country and concentrating on stabilizing and providing basic support for cities and towns.

Still, he said, there are some parts of the country, particularly north of Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, that allied forces have not entered, including the city of Baiji.

"So there is potential in those locations for some fights, or at least in Baiji for fights," McChrystal said. "But most areas, we are transitioning to going after the pockets of death squads, toward dealing with those elements that want to rise up and cause threats to either the new Iraq or to coalition forces. "

U.S. troops in Baghdad raided the home of microbiologist Rihab Taha, whom U.N. weapons inspectors dubbed "Dr. Germ." Taha oversaw Iraq's secret biological laboratory, which was suspected of weaponizing anthrax. Her whereabouts were unknown.

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