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Iraq: Baghdad Bombed As War Looks To Be Longer Than Expected

Prague, 28 March 20003 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. military attacked Iraqi command-and-communications centers in Baghdad with cruise missiles and massive "bunker-busting" bombs today amid warnings that the war in Iraq could be a long fight. Iraq's defense minister said U.S.-led forces will probably encircle Iraqi positions around Baghdad in less than 10 days, but predicted the battle for the capital will last for months.

The U.S. Army's senior ground commander in Iraq told U.S. newspapers that stretched supply lines and combative Iraqi fighters have stalled the drive toward Baghdad and could make a longer war more likely.

Neither British Prime Minister Tony Blair nor U.S. President George W. Bush would set a timetable for the war's conclusion. Blair told BBC Radio that the war to topple President Saddam Hussein will take time and have its "tough and difficult moments."

The United States has ordered 100,000 more troops to the Persian Gulf, and Bush yesterday said President Saddam Hussein's grip on Iraq is slowly being loosened. "Together, coalition forces are advancing day by day, in steady progress against the enemy. Slowly, but surely, the grip of terror around the throats of the Iraqi people is being loosened," Bush said.

In other areas of Iraq, correspondents report that there was a large battle in Najaf south of Baghdad overnight, Iraqi Kurd rebels were advancing closer to Kirkuk, and U.S. forces flew more transport vehicles and troops into Kurdish-held northern Iraq

At the United Nations, chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said there is no evidence that the Iraqis have used banned weapons in the war. He said statements that Iraq had fired banned Scud missiles were "later on withdrawn."