With the fall of Baghdad, Iraq's U.N. ambassador declared Wednesday, "the game is over" - and became the first Iraqi official to concede defeat in the US-led war.
Mohammed Al-Douri expressed hope that the Iraqi people will now be able to live in peace.
"My work now is peace," he told reporters outside his New York residence. "The game is over, and I hope the peace will prevail. I hope the Iraqi people will have a happy life."
Al-Douri was asked what he meant when he said "the game is over."
"The war," he responded.
His comments were the first admission by an Iraqi official that coalition forces had overwhelmed Iraqi troops after a three-week campaign.
Two weeks ago, during a heated U.N. debate, Al-Douri accused the United States of "criminal aggression" against Iraq and warned the US-led coalition was "about to start a real war of extermination that will kill everything and destroy everything."
The outburst caused US Ambassador John Negroponte to walk out of the open Security Council meeting, saying he'd "heard enough."
On Wednesday, when asked about Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Al-Douri said he had no "relationship with Saddam."
"I have no communication with Iraq," the ambassador said.
Questioned about Al-Douri's comments, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said: "Well, I would say it wasn't a game, first."
Rumsfeld added that there was still lots of "difficult, dangerous" work ahead in Iraq.
Earlier, Al-Douri told Associated Press Television News: "This is a war, and there will be a winner and someone who is a loser."
When asked what he thought about scenes broadcast Wednesday from Baghdad, he said: "Well I don't know really, I watch the television like you."
He said that because of the war he has been unable to contact any government officials "for a long time."
Key Developments in the War Against Iraq
_ Liberated by US-led troops, thousands of Iraqis on Wednesday celebrated the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime, toppling a statue of their longtime ruler in the center of Baghdad and looting government sites.
_ Marine and Army units swept through Baghdad � seizing or destroying buildings almost at will � but pockets of fierce resistance remained as looting took hold in some parts of the city.
_ Coalition forces began to turn their attention north toward Tikrit, Saddam's home town.
_ With the fall of Baghdad, top priorities for American forces in Iraq become recovering U.S. prisoners of war � including any still alive from the 1991 Gulf War � securing northern oil fields and unearthing illegal weapons, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said.
_ Rumsfeld also said the United States is offering an unspecified reward to Iraqis who provide information about government officials and weapons of mass destruction, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said.
_ Iraq's UN ambassador, Mohammed Al-Douri, said "the game is over" and expressed hope that the Iraqi people will be able to live in peace.
_ Prime Minister Tony Blair said it was difficult to know what was left of the higher ranks of the Iraqi government, and therefore who would be in position to surrender to advancing coalition forces.
_ Vice President Dick Cheney said the United States and its allies will lead Iraq's transition to a new government once the war is over and the United Nations should lead the relief work.
_ Saddam's whereabouts remained a mystery after an attempt to kill him with a bomb attack Monday. Opposition Iraqis say he may have escaped the city.
_ Iraqi opposition leader Ahmad Chalabi urged the US-led interim administration to leave Kuwait City and move quickly into Iraq.
_ The British and French foreign ministers agreed that coalition troops are needed to secure Iraq, but France repeated demands for a "central" United Nations role in rebuilding the country.
_ US special operations troops and Kurdish fighters eliminated a crucial air defense installation near the government-held city of Mosul. But fighting in the north was not over, and strategic oil fields near the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk remained under Iraqi control.
_ A Canadian worker for the International Committee of the Red Cross was killed when gunfire strafed his car while driving through Baghdad.