US-led forces started moving on Friday into Mosul - the largest city in northern Iraq - and planned to meet with local representatives to negotiate a surrender.
Kurdish military leaders said remnants of Saddam Hussein's forces had offered to surrender if they were granted amnesty and if coalition bombing stopped.
In Washington, US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld said small numbers of US and Kurdish forces had started entering Mosul to begin the process of taking weapons from Iraqi forces. "It is an orderly process and the forces that are entering are being welcomed by the people," he said.
Lt. Col. Robert Waltemeyer, commander of a US Special Forces unit to the north near Dohuk, said a meeting with Mosul leaders would take place Friday morning.
"I am prepared to meet with leaders to establish secure zones within the city," Waltemeyer said. "We will work around the clock to set the conditions for a political solution in Mosul." The circumstances of how to surrender in Iraqi cities have been unclear to both sides in recent days. British soldiers reported this week that Iraqi soldiers were shelled by their own forces as they tried to surrender with white flags in southern Iraq.
"The people of Mosul, mostly an Arab city, are waiting for some kind of Baghdad-type scenario, with M1 tanks rolling through downtown," said Waltemeyer. "It's not going to happen." Gen. Babakir Zebari, commander of Kurdish forces in Dohuk, said what's left of the Baath Party and Iraqi military commanders in Mosul had offered to surrender if their conditions were met.
A list of the names of the people seeking amnesty will be sent to US Central Command to determine who they are, he said. Mosul is the second greatest prize sought by the Kurds after the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which they seized Thursday. Waltemeyer said the United States considered the Kurds' taking of Kirkuk premature. At a meeting Thursday with Zebari, he said the Kurdish peshmerga fighters must stay on the outskirts of Mosul.
"It's important that everyone stay on their own side," the colonel said. "So nobody will accuse us of letting the peshmerga into the city, which has angered the Turks in Kirkuk." The swift move of Kurdish troops into Kirkuk early Thursday provoked concern in Turkey, which opposes Kurdish control of the oil-rich city. US Secretary of State Colin Powell said he had reached an accord with Turkey to have Kurdish forces pull back from Kirkuk and had agreed that Turkey could send a small group of monitors into Kirkuk.
Zebari assured Waltemeyer that Kurdish forces would not enter Mosul before getting permission from the United States. "Whatever we do here will be with coordination with US forces," he said. "I just want to assure you that whatever happened in Kirkuk will not happen in Mosul."