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Friday, December 18, 1998 Published at 23:09 GMT


Blair: Military action on target

Iraqis inspect the damage caused by the bombing raids

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has said the armed forces of Britain and the US are on course to achieving the military objectives in Iraq as British Tornados once again went into action.


Tony Blair: "We are significantly damaging Saddam Hussein's military capability"
He said they had continued to target the command and control control systems of Saddam Hussein but were taking care to limit civilian casualties.

"There is no doubt at all that we are significantly damaging Saddam Hussein's military capability and reducing therefore, again significantly, the threat that he poses to the region and to the world," said Mr Blair.


[ image: Blair: Trying to limit civilian casualties]
Blair: Trying to limit civilian casualties
"The reason we took this action is because unless he is kept firmly in his cage he is going to use whatever force he can."

He insisted there was widespread support for the joint US/British action around the world but added that diplomacy was continuing.

"Today I have spoken, of course, to President Clinton, to Chancellor Schroeder, to President Chirac, to Crown Prince Abdullah, to President Mubarak and others, and I think there's a very great deal of understanding right around the world that Saddam Hussein does indeed pose a threat, that it is necessary indeed to make sure that we reduce that threat that he poses," he said.


BBC's Kate Adie: The drones were targeted and destroyed
Speaking as British war planes based in Kuwait embarked on a second day of sorties, BBC Chief News Correspondent Kate Adie said details were emerging of the three missions flown by the Tornados on Thursday.

She said the British pilots were ordered to target drone aircraft being developed by the Iraqis to deliver chemical and biological weapons.

"Twelve of these were sited in a hangar in a military complex. It was targeted by the RAF, hit and destroyed," she said.

Earlier, the Iraq leadership delivered a defiant response to the bomb attacks of the last two days.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, denounced the attacks as criminal aggression against the whole international community.

Robust defence

He blamed what he called a Zionist clique for creating the conditions for the attacks, and described the Chief UN weapons inspector, Richard Butler as a pawn of the United States and Britain.


Group Captain Brian Collins on the success of Thursday night's bombing missions
It was an allegation which brought a robust defence from Mr Blair.

"He is a man of the utmost integrity," he said. "He's dedicated his life to the principles of the UN."

Mr Blair also insisted that President Clinton was staying focused on the military action, despite the impeachment proceedings against him.

"I have always found him completely focused on this matter because it is so important," he said.



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