US Secretary of State Colin Powell conceded that the American-led invasion of Iraq had experienced difficulties but he said he was confident it would ultimately succeed.
"Obviously there have been problems. When you get going in a battle like this, there will be ambushes, there will be irregular forces attacking, there will be difficulties in particular places such as there is now in Basra," Powell said in an interview with France 3 television news.
"I'm quite confident that the strategy we have -- to take our time and to do it well -- is a strategy that will work, it will prevail and it will have its ups and downs," the secretary of state said.
The American-British army has abandoned plans to bypass the southern city of Basra and is instead now bent on taking it, because of continuing harassment of its supply lines by snipers and irregular Iraqi forces.
Powell said it was only a matter of time before the fall of Baghdad. "We control almost all of the country except for the area around Baghdad. We have coalition forces in the west, we have coalition forces in the northern areas with the Kurds, we control the whole southern part of the country, so we are now slowly encircling Baghdad," he said.
Meanwhile, Iraqi forces in Basra were firing mortars on fellow Iraqis who were rebelling against them in Basra and British forces were firing artillery on these mortar positions.
This report was aired on the Sky News TV channel in London Tuesday evening. It said British military intelligence had reported that "Iraqi forces are firing mortar rounds on protestors who are actually rebelling against the ruling Baath party."
In Qatar, a British military spokesman at allied field command headquarters said he could not confirm reports of the uprising. "I cannot confirm the report," Lieutenant Colonel Ronnie Mc Court told AFP.
Iraq's main Shi'ite opposition group also said that people in Basra had risen up against forces loyal to President Saddam Hussein.
"We confirm an uprising is taking place in Basra, but we cannot give more details for the time being," said Mohamed Hadi Asadi, a spokesman for the Iran-based Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).
On his part, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf on Tuesday denied reports of an uprising in the southern city of Basra, in a statement to Al-Jazeera television.
"I categorically deny these provocative lies the Americans are trying to spread through CNN," he said in a live telephone interview with the Qatar-based network. "These are lies issued by the US administration and British government ... with the aim of demoralizing" the Iraqi population, Sahhaf added. "I want to affirm to you that Basra is continuing to hold steadfast," al-Sahhaf conveyed. (Albawaba.com)
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