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Iraq: U.S. Troops Approach Southern Outskirts Of Baghdad

Prague, 3 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. military says its troops today advanced to within 10 kilometers of the southern outskirts of Baghdad or about 20 kilometers from the center, and are positioning themselves to fight for the city's main airport. Spokesman Captain Frank Thorp said at U.S. Central Command in Qatar that the troops are "closer and closer" to Baghdad.

Reports say that a series of major explosions have been heard from the direction of the airport, but the city center remained unhit.

Thorp said elements of four Republican Guard divisions are moving south to engage U.S. troops closing on Baghdad. The Republican Guard has six divisions, but two of them have been severely hit in fighting during the last two days.

Captain Al Lockwood, spokesman for the British forces Central Command in Qatar, said the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr is now a "safe area" for UN aid operations.

Lockwood said the mine-sweeping operations have broadened the approaches to the port and the UN is now prepared to assist with humanitarian aid.

In a separate development, Jordanian Prime Minister Ali abu Raghen today condemned "the killings and destructions resulting from Iraq's invasion" in a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Edward Gnehm.