U.S. Army troops rolled into Baghdad, establishing dominance and taking permanent control of one of President Saddam Hussein's palaces. The Army also surrounded the Information Ministry and other key government installations for a while. An Iraqi attack in the southern part of the city left two soldiers and two journalists dead.

British forces took control of the key southern city of Basra, while the Army said it had tentatively identified chemical agents at a military compound southwest of Baghdad.

IN BAGHDAD

Heavily armed U.S. troops established a presence in the heart of the capital city, conducting a bold raid with tanks and armored personnel carriers. It drew pockets of fierce resistance from Iraqi soldiers and militiamen.

As many as 70 M1 Abrams tanks and 60 armored personnel carriers were involved in the incursion, which was intended to highlight the strength of U.S. forces and the weakness of Iraq's defenses to Hussein's remaining loyalists, U.S. military officials said. U.S. forces claimed the Republican Palace, the official seat of Iraq's government, and engaged in fighting near the Information Ministry and the Rashid Hotel.

Hussein loyalists fought back, killing at least two soldiers. Two other soldiers and two European journalists died when an Iraqi rocket destroyed the 2nd Brigade's tactical operations center on the southern outskirts of Baghdad. The attack also injured 15 soldiers and destroyed 17 vehicles and could impede the brigade's headquarters operations and potentially affect ground operations inside the city. On the capital's eastern fringe, two Marines were killed and three others wounded when an Iraqi artillery shell hit their amphibious assault vehicle.

But Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf denied at a news conference on the roof of the Palestine Hotel that U.S. troops were inside Baghdad, even though the battle at the Republican Presidential Palace was within sight of the hotel.

Iraqi television showed footage of Hussein, wearing military fatigues, and his son Qusay meeting top aides. It was not clear when the meeting took place. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld cited three possibilities: Hussein is dead, injured or unwilling "to show himself." In any event, Rumsfeld said, Hussein's control of Iraq is much diminished and he is running out of soldiers.

IN THE SOUTH

British forces ended a two-week siege of the country's second-largest city and marched virtually unopposed into the center of Basra, where they were greeted warmly by hundreds of residents. Other residents, however, looted shops, banks and other businesses.

British officials announced that Gen. Ali Hassan Majeed, a cousin of Hussein's who ordered a 1988 poison gas attack that killed thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq, had been killed in an airstrike on his house in Basra. But U.S. officials said it was possible he could have survived .

The Army said preliminary tests on substances contained in metal drums found at a military training camp near the city of Karbala indicated a high probability of the presence of the deadly nerve agents sarin and tabun and a blistering pulmonary agent believed to be phosgene. If confirmed, the discovery would provide the first tangible evidence that Iraq possesses chemical weapons in contravention of U.N. resolutions. Rumsfeld said more tests are needed.

AFTER THE WAR

President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair met in Belfast to discuss how Iraq will be governed after the conflict -- with Blair reportedly far more convinced that the United Nations should play a key role.

En route to Belfast, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said: "There isn't as much debate and disagreement about this as you might read in the newspapers. There will be a role for the United Nations as a partner in this process."

-- James L. Rowe Jr.