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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld denied on Tuesday that the United States is negotiating an end to war with Iraq. "The only thing the coalition will discuss with this regime is their unconditional surrender," he said.
Rumsfeld said Saddam Hussein's government had been planting rumors that U.S. officials were talking to Iraqi leaders, with the goal of convincing Iraqi citizens that "the coalition does not intend to finish the job."
Speaking directly to the Iraqi public, Rumsfeld denied such rumors and accused Saddam's government of lying.
"There are no negotiations taking place," Rumsfeld said. "There is no outcome to this war that will leave Saddam Hussein and his regime in power."
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said serious combat is already under way against Iraqi forces, and there will be "bigger pushes that will be under way as soon as we're ready." But he gave no indication of the timing of an assault on Baghdad.
Rumsfeld said U.S. and British forces are positioned around the Iraqi capital from the north, south and west. "The circle is closing," he said.
The defense secretary said Iraqi Republican Guard units "have been taking a pounding" for several days. "They're being attacked from the air, they're pressured from the ground, and in good time they won't be there," Rumsfeld said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)