Baghdad, 30 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld flew into Baghdad today, 40 days after the United States went to war to overthrow the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. Rumsfeld said in a broadcast to the Iraqi people from one of Hussein's palaces that the U.S.-led coalition is committed to leaving Iraq as soon as it has assured Iraqis democratic control over their own country.
He is the most senior U.S. official to visit Iraq since the war began.
Rumsfeld told U.S. troops in Baghdad that they came to Iraq to liberate the country.
"Unlike many armies in the world, you came not to conquer, not to occupy, but to liberate, and the Iraqi people know this," Rumsfeld said. "And when you arrived in Baghdad, many of the Iraqi people came into the streets to welcome you, pulling down statues of Saddam Hussein, celebrating their new-found freedom."
In the central Iraqi town of Fallujah, U.S. forces today fired on a crowd of civilians for the second consecutive day. The U.S. Central Command says it does not know how many people were injured in today's incident, but Fallujah's mayor and local doctors are quoted as saying at least two Iraqis were killed and several wounded.
Central Command said civilians in the town threw rocks and fired weapons at a U.S. convoy and that U.S. troops returned fire.
In Washington today, the U.S. State Department said Secretary of State Colin Powell has recommended Iraq no longer be categorized as a state sponsor of terrorism. The White House said U.S. President George W. Bush favors the action.