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Iraq: U.S. Soldier Killed North Of Baghdad

Prague, 31 July 2003 (RFE/RL) -- One U.S. soldier was reported killed and two wounded when attackers, using small arms, fired on their base north of Baghdad. The U.S. Central Command said the soldiers came under attack at a forward position about 80 kilometers north of the Iraqi capital.

The latest casualties came one day after U.S. President George W. Bush said U.S. forces in Iraq are coming closer to capturing ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, though it was impossible to say exactly when Hussein would be caught.

Bush also said there are signs of improvement in Iraq. "It's been 90 days since the end of combat operations in Iraq. The nation has been liberated from tyranny and is on the path of self-government and peace," he said.

Bush also said he took personal responsibility for remarks he made in his State of the Union address in January that indicated Iraq was seeking to purchase material for use in its nuclear-development programs from a country in Africa. Those remarks, used to make the case for war against Hussein's regime, were proven to be unsubstantiated later.

Meanwhile, David Kay, the man who leads the hunt for alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, is due to brief Congress later today.

Also, "The New York Times" reported today that Iraq and U.S. officials have agreed on a $1.6 billion plan to rehabilitate Iraq's oil industry over eight months. The plan would be the first step toward overhauling Iraq's oil industry, eroded by 12 years of sanctions.