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 Monday, April 07, 2003



LATEST AFP correspondents said key nerve centres including the ministries of information and foreign affairs near the main palace remained under Iraqi control.

President Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace has not fallen to US forces, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Said Sahhaf said Monday, "They pushed forward some troop transporters and tanks, we have surrounded them with our troops," Sahhaf said after US forces reported taking control of three palaces, including the main Republican Palace in the heart of the capital.

Mosul remains under Iraqi control but Kurdish peshmerga and US troops, parachuted in last week, are active in the region as part of a northern front.

The administrative district around the embattled main palace of President Saddam Hussein, including the ministries of information and foreign affairs, were still in Iraqi hands around 10:15 am (0615 GMT) Monday, AFP correspondents said.The road leading from the information ministry in the heart of Baghdad toward the foreign ministry was manned by paramilitary militiamen holding rocket-propelled grenades and assault-rifles.Armed militiamen, behind sandbags, stood guard at the entrances to the ministries and other nearby official buildings, including the presidential construction agency and the Baghdad Security Directorate which has been destroyed by US missiles.The roads leading to the nearby presidential palace were blocked by checkpoints manned by fully-armed militiamen wearing checked Arab headresses.

Fighting moved to the heart of the Iraqi capital on Monday as shells exploded near the city centre presidential palace compound where an ammunition depot exploded, an AFP correspondent reported.

U.S. troops seized key buildings in the heart of the Iraqi capital Monday, including a major presidential palace on the Tigris River, the Information Ministry and the Al-Rashid Hotel

Five people were injured when a car convoy evacuating the Russian ambassador to Iraq from Baghdad to Syria came under fire, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman said late Sunday. "I'm 100 percent sure the Americans were the first to open fire," he continued: "The Iraqis obviously started shooting back and we were caught in a crossfire," the reporter added. "The first three cars full of diplomats came under machine gun fire," Minakov reported: "The ambassador was lucky because a bullet went through the windscreen between the driver and him." Minakov said they later approached US armoured vehicles, which ignored their request for medical assistance.

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