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Iraq: Soldiers Reportedly Surrender As Deadline Expires

Northern Kuwaiti desert, 19 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. military officials and Kuwaiti officials say 17 Iraqi soldiers crossed the border into Kuwait today and surrendered to U.S. troops. A few hours later, U.S. President George W. Bush's 48-hour ultimatum to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to leave or face military action expired (0200 Prague time). Saddam has shown no sign of accepting the ultimatum, apparently making war inevitable.

Captain Darrin Theriault, headquarters company commander of the First Brigade of the U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division in the Kuwaiti desert, said the soldiers were handed over to Kuwaiti police after laying down their weapons and surrendering.

Theriault said the Kuwaiti police had custody of the Iraqi soldiers. He said "no enemy prisoners of war are under U.S. control."

RFE/RL correspondent Ron Synovitz says he heard similar reports of the surrenders from other U.S. military officials.

Thousands of U.S. troops and vehicles were deployed today to the edge of the UN's demilitarized zone five kilometers from the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border.

In other news, the Pentagon says U.S. forces have dropped hundreds of thousands of leaflets over Iraqi troop positions.

The leaflets contain detailed instructions on how Iraqi forces can capitulate to U.S.-led troops and escape attack. The leaflets advise Iraqi soldiers not to approach coalition forces, and ask Iraqi forces to display white flags on their vehicles.

The leaflets say Iraqi officers may be able to retain their sidearms, but that others must disarm.