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Pentagon hints at new strikes on Iraq

Pentagon hints at new strikes on Iraq

Official: Friday’s bombing failed to eliminate threat to U.S. pilots


WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 —  The Pentagon said Tuesday that more air strikes
against Iraq are possible after preliminary assessments showed Friday’s
bombings failed to do the job, NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reported.

        OFFICIALS AT THE Pentagon said that last week’s attack took out only
one-third of the radar sites and less than half of the command-and-control
structures at five locations in Iraq.

       The Pentagon initially said there was no need for additional strikes.
But a senior Pentagon official said Tuesday, “We wish he wouldn’t have said

       Iraq resumed firing on allied air patrols in the southern “no-fly”
zone over the weekend, hardly hesitating after the joint U.S.-British air

       Britain and the United States, facing widespread criticism of their
hawkish Iraq policy, were scheduled to discuss ideas for easing sanctions on
Baghdad, imposed after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

       A senior British diplomat will meet with U.S. officials in Washington
Thursday to explore focusing largely on banning arms imports and removing
controls on civilian goods, British sources said.

          “We will see if there is room to sharpen the sanctions around
weapons of mass destruction,” a British official said.

       President Saddam Hussein blames existing sanctions for a humanitarian
disaster, which he says has killed more than one million people. Britain and
the United States blame Saddam’s policies for the situation.

       The impact of sanctions already has been eased in the last four years
by an “oil-for-food” arrangement that allows Iraq to sell oil and buy food
and medicines with the proceeds.

       Washington and London insist sanctions cannot be lifted until Iraq
fully complies with the provisions of the 1991 Gulf War cease-fire and
allows U.N. weapons inspectors to oversee elimination of its weapons of mass

       But Iraq, which refused to let the inspectors back in after a wave of
U.S.-British air strikes in December 1998, argues it already has met its
obligations and has rallied international support for a complete end to

       On Tuesday, the Pentagon said Iraq fired surface-to-air missiles and
anti-aircraft artillery at allied pilots on Saturday and Sunday. The allied
planes were not hit and did not fire back, said spokesman Marine Corps Lt.
Col. Dave LaPan.

         Although Iraq does not recognize the legitimacy of “no-fly” zones —
north of the 36th parallel and south of the 33rd parallel — it has not
contested U.S. and British air patrols as frequently in the north. According
to U.S. European Command, which manages air patrols over northern Iraq,
Iraqi air defenses in that area have fired on allied planes only twice this
year, most recently on Feb. 12.
       Friday’s U.S.-British attacks against five air defense sites in the
south were timed to avoid killing or injuring Chinese civilian and military
workers who were helping install underground fiber-optic cables to
significantly improve the effectiveness of Iraq’s air defenses, a senior
defense official said Monday.
       “On a Friday you have the lowest number of people present — both
Iraqis and Chinese,” the senior official said, speaking on condition of
anonymity. “The goal wasn’t to kill people, the goal was to bust up stuff.”
WashPost: U.S. sends Iraq a message

       The official said some portion of the fiber-optic network already was
operating at the time of the bombing.
       Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, the director of operations for
the Joint Staff, said Friday that the targets struck by American and British
planes were long-range surveillance radar and other sites that provide the
command-and-control links to Iraqi surface-to-air missile batteries. He said
these facilities had helped Iraq coordinate its defenses and had resulted in
numerous near misses against allied air patrols in recent weeks.

       In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said he had no
knowledge of Chinese military and civilian experts supposedly helping Iraq’s
military install underground fiber-optic cables.
       The sensitivity of potential Chinese casualties is linked to the May
1999 U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia — an attack
that the United States said was a mistake and which the Chinese government
insisted was a deliberate assault. That bombing killed three Chinese and
injured more than a dozen. It poisoned U.S.-China relations for months.
       The Wall Street Journal reported in Tuesday’s editions that China’s
assistance to Iraq in establishing fiber-optic links to its air defense
network is a clear violation of U.N. sanctions against Iraq.
       U.N. sanctions forbid contracts that would help rebuild Iraq’s
military. U.N. officials, who told the Journal they were unaware of the
Chinese assistance, insisted there was no way

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