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Iraq news update

A couple of scary news reports:


Sunday November 15 5:07 AM ET 

U.S. Aborts Raid On Iraq But Still 'Poised'

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A day after launching and then aborting a raid on
Baghdad, the United States Sunday held firm to its threat to bomb Iraq and
dismissed its offer to lift a ban on U.N. arms inspections as

``We were poised to take military action, and we remain poised to take
military action,'' White House national security adviser Sandy Berger said

A divided Security Council, which failed to reach a conclusion after a
marathon session Saturday night to consider Iraq's latest move, will meet
again Sunday afternoon. 

Unity was still elusive amongst the five permanent members of the
15-nation council as Russia, China and France welcomed Baghdad's decision
though Britain warned Iraqi President Saddam Hussein Sunday that it was
``ready to strike without further warning'' if he reneged on his latest

``It is not over yet,'' said a spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony
Blair. ``We intend to bolt them down every step of the way and to test the
assurances given.''

Iraqi newspapers Sunday proclaimed ``victory.''

``The leadership's decision pulled the rug from under the feet of the
American administration, which has become used to distorting the facts
relating to Iraq and engineering excuses to commit aggression against
it,'' the ruling Baath party newspaper, al-Thawra (revolution) said. 

``After this victory we should thank our steadfast people,'' it said. 
``Victory after victory until we overcome (the sanctions).''

When Iraq said on October 31 it was breaking off cooperation with the arms
inspectors, it said it was doing so to get the stringent sanctions lifted.
The sanctions have been in place since Iraq's August 1990 invasion of

Iraq's envoy to the United Nations assured the Security Council that
Baghdad had rescinded its ban on inspectors unconditionally. The offer was
contained in a letter to U.N.  Secretary-General Kofi Annan and then
clarified in a separate message that sought to meet U.S. objections. 

An annex to the first letter become a major bone of contention. The United
States said it set unacceptable conditions for the return of the U.N.
weapons teams -- a view that Iraq denied. 

``These views are not connected with the decision of the government of
Iraq, which is clear and unconditional, to resume its relations with the
U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) (and) the International Atomic Energy
Agency,'' Iraqi U.N.  Ambassador Nizar Hamdoon said. 

Washington did not react to Iraq's clarifying statements but was earlier
scathing in its assessment of the letter from Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister
Tareq Aziz to Annan announcing Baghdad's policy switch and a controversial

``The Iraqi letter sent today to Secretary-General Annan is neither
unequivocal nor unconditional,'' Berger said. ``It is unacceptable.''

President Clinton had ordered warplanes to attack Baghdad Saturday but
abruptly cancelled the raid as the bombers were in the air so Washington
could study the offer, according to a U.S. official who declined to be

``It was close,'' said the official, confirming that bombers carrying
cruise missiles had been launched. 

Clinton Saturday called off a trip to an Asia-Pacific economic summit in
Malaysia so he could monitor the Iraq standoff, sending Vice President Al
Gore instead. 

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright cut short her appearance at the APEC
talks Sunday to return to Washington and deal with the Iraqi matter, a
U.S. official said. 

Washington concluded Iraq's offer fell short of the unequivocal compliance
it had demanded. Berger complained that ''what we have instead is a letter
and particularly an annex that's got more holes than Swiss cheese.''

The nine-point annex dealt mainly with a promised Security Council review
of how far Iraq has progressed in carrying out U.N.  disarmament
requirements, which Baghdad says should lead to the speedy lifting of

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said in Singapore he would support
the United States if it acted against Iraq. ''Unless they receive another
clarification, the Americans were going, and they will probably go, and I
will back them up,'' he said. 

Annan, who said early Saturday that Iraq had met U.N. conditions, was
slightly more cautious late in the day, saying: ''I think at least (the
Iraqis) have made a step in the right direction, and as I indicated this
morning, it is a positive development. But the council may want further

The United Nations said that despite earlier word to the contrary, it was
not ready to return 152 of its humanitarian workers to Iraq. 

A U.N. official in Jordan had said he expected the first group to move
back to Baghdad Sunday because of Iraq's offer but an official at the
United Nations in New York said Annan must still make a final decision.


Sunday November 15 12:36 AM ET

U.S. Launched, Aborted Air Raid On Iraq - Official

By Charles Aldinger

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. B-52 bombers headed for Iraq with cruise
missiles Saturday but the raid was aborted after Baghdad offered to
cooperate with U.N. arms inspections, a U.S. official said. 

``It was close,'' the official said, confirming that the eight-engine
bombers had taken off but were called back so Washington could consider
Iraq's letter to the United Nations. The White House later rejected
Baghdad's offer as inadequate. 

The U.S. official, who asked not to be identified, declined to say where
the bombers had been launched from. But the Air Force is currently in the
process of sending 12 of the big Vietnam-vintage jets with air-launched
cruise missiles to the Gulf region in a major military buildup. 

CNN reported that the B-52s were only an hour from striking when the raid
was aborted. The accurate missiles carried by the planes, air-launched
versions of ship-borne Tomahawk cruise missiles, have a range of more than
1,000 miles (1,600 km). 

Defense officials, who also asked not to be identified, refused to comment
on whether the bombers had been launched but said the United States had
been within hours of a major strike on Iraqi targets by several hundred
air and sea-launched missiles in action authorized by President Clinton
before Baghdad sent its letter to the United Nations. 

The U.S. Navy has a submarine and seven other warships in the Gulf area
capable of launching Tomahawks. 

U.S. national security adviser Sandy Berger later Saturday called the
Iraqi letter offering to resume cooperation with U.N. arms inspectors
``unacceptable'' and said the United States remained poised for military

B-52 bombers previously ordered to the area near Iraq are from Minot Air
Force Base in North Dakota and Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. They
are to be based at a British facility on the Indian Ocean island of Diego

The United States Saturday continued its military buildup in the Gulf and
was expected to have a force of more than 22 warships and 300 aircraft in
the area within two weeks. 

More than 50 F-15 and F-16 fighter jets left their stateside bases
Saturday, and 12 radar-avoiding F-117A stealth fighters were to depart
Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico for Kuwait later Saturday night. 


Noteworthy quote from Reuters report 'Iraq To Resume Cooperation With U.N.
Inspectors', Saturday November 14 11:16 AM ET:

"[An Iraqi spokesperson] said one of Iraq's goals had been met -- that its
views had been presented to the world and everyone was now aware of what
Baghdad wants." 

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