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Iraq: U.S. Consolidating Hold On Key Cities

Baghdad, 15 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. forces are consolidating their hold in Iraq today, with troops gaining control in key cities. In Baghdad, there are fewer reports of looting as U.S. troops accompanied a small number of unarmed Iraqi police for the second day in jointly patrolling the streets of the capital.

To the north, U.S. forces today are looking for opposition fighters in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. The U.S. military says the 26-day-old war in Iraq is "coming to a close" after U.S. troops yesterday took control of Tikrit, believed to have been the final stronghold of Hussein.

Relief agencies say they will increase food and aid shipments as U.S.-led coalition forces restore order to Iraq.

UNICEF, the UN's children relief agency, says trucks carrying 120,000 liters of drinking water will cross into southern Iraq from Iran today. The World Food Program says it is planning to soon ship 2,000 tons of food daily into northern Iraq through Turkey.