Major fighting in Iraq 'essentially over' - US


Iraqi fighters have not mounted a coherent defence and major combat in the country is essentially over, according to senior US military sources.

US Major Stanley McChrystal confirmed today was the last day aircraft from all five coalition carriers flew missions over Iraq.

Two US Navy aircraft carriers and the ships in their battle groups will leave the Gulf this week and return to their home ports.

The number of missions flown is down to about 800 a day, with fewer than 200 precision-guided bombs and missiles dropped.

"I think we will move into a phase where it is smaller, but sharp fights," Major General McChrystal said at the Pentagon in Washington.

The departure of the USS Kitty Hawkand the USS Constellationreflects a winding down of the air campaign, although the Pentagon is still sending more ground forces to Kuwait and Iraq.

Also, he confirmed there have been no positive test results on the suspected chemical weapons found so far by coalition forces.