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Week 3 of the war in Iraq opened with some US armored units only six miles outside Baghdad, whose electricity finally appeared cut. But senior officials of the coalition powers warned against underestimating "the task that still faces our forces or the length of time it may take to complete." Still, the prospect that Saddam Hussein's regime could generate momentum in defense of the country appeared grim. Coalition troops were defending a key dam north of the capital that they'd seized before it could be blown up, were preparing to capture Baghdad's international airport, and had raided and seized documents from a presidential palace on the city's outskirts, US military briefers said. Iraq's information minister called those reports "lies [that] have no end." Meanwhile, Arabs in Damascus, Syria, line up for a trip to Iraq, where they planned to volunteer to help defend the regime.

In other war-related news:

• Secretary of State Powell sought to assure NATO and European Union foreign ministers in Brussels that the US wanted "a partnership" with the UN in rebuilding Iraq after the war.

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• King Abdullah of Jordan, a US ally to date, bowed to vehement domestic protests of the war, calling it "an invasion" and Iraqi civilians who've died "martyrs."

• German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, a vigorous opponent of the war, for the first time publicly dropped his objection to regime change in Iraq and called for Hussein's removal.

Sentences of life in prison will be sought for at least 12 of the 80 people arrested in Cuba in the communist government's toughest crackdown on political dissidents in years, reports said. None of their trials, which began Thursday, were open to foreign journalists or diplomats. Meanwhile, a hijacked ferry with 50 people aboard returned to a port under government escort. In an unprecedented telecast, the senior American diplomat in Havana warned other would-be hijackers they'd be harshly punished if they succeeded in reaching the US.

Another death from the Asian severe acute respiratory syndrome was reported in Singapore, pushing the global total to 80. But physicians from the UN's World Health Organization, in south China to investigate the origin of the disease, cited government statistics showing a decline in cases there. China's health minister appealed to travelers who have canceled visits to reconsider, saying the SARS outbreak was "under effective control."

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