The US Defence Secretary has denied there has been a breakdown of law and order in Iraq.

Donald Rumsfeld said widespread looting is just part of the transitional process.

The northern city of Mosul is the latest area to be hit by looting after the Iraqi army abandoned the city to US-backed Kurdish fighters.

In Baghdad serious disorder is continuing with armed looters raiding government buildings, shops, private homes and even hospitals.

But at a news conference at the Pentagon this evening, Mr Rumsfeld said the international media was exaggerating the situation by repeatedly showing chaotic images.

Bush urges Syria to close borders

Meanwhile, US President George W Bush has urged Syrian leaders to do 'everything they can' to close Syria's borders to fleeing followers of Saddam Hussein and to turn over any already on its territory.

ICRC appeal over looting

The International Committee of the Red Cross has appealed to American forces in Baghdad to restore law and order in the city. The ICRC says the city has descended into anarchy.

The American forces have said they are taking measures to try to end the serious security problems being caused by looting.

They are setting up an operations centre at a hotel in the city centre and are calling on professional people to come forward and help run public services. Looters have been targeting government buildings, shopping centres, private houses and even hospitals.

Britain's International Development Secretary has also urged US troops to restore law and order to Baghdad, saying it was their duty under the Geneva Convention.

Clare Short said there had to be a much bigger effort to stop looting and violence.

She said the Geneva Convention stipulated that occupying forces must make sure civilians were cared for and that the civilian administration was kept running.

Major oil field under US controlUS soldiers in Northern Iraq are taking control of the country's largest and oldest oilfield outside Kirkuk.

The capture of the field, which is reported to be capable of producing 900,000 barrels a day, would leave US-led forces in virtual control of all of Iraq's oil.