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Thursday, 22 February, 2001, 18:11 GMT
Analysis: A tougher line?
President Bush announces bombings against Iraq
George W Bush: Mission was 'routine'
By BBC News Online's Martin Asser

The return of US and British bombing in the vicinity of the Iraqi capital marks an apparent escalation in the approach of the two Western powers towards Iraq.

The 16 February attacks were against military targets, including radar and command and control sites around Baghdad.

No-fly zone map
This was the first time in more than two years that areas near the Iraqi capital were bombed, although the US and Britain have been conducting a continuous low-level bombing campaign which Iraq says has claimed 300 lives since it began in 1998.

There was a marked absence on Friday of the usual build-up and brinkmanship which has characterised previous bombing raids.

Inevitably, many people saw it as a calling card from the newly-installed Bush administration, to make its mark on a conflict with Iraq that dates back to the president's father's time in office.

This conflict poses one of the most serious foreign policy challenges for George W Bush's team.

'Self-defence'

The US and UK say that the raid on Baghdad came in response to an increase in anti-aircraft missile attacks on planes patrolling the no-fly zones it has imposed on Iraq

Iraqi woman reacts to destruction of her house in US bombing
More bombings mean more propaganda for Baghdad
Precision-guided "stand-off" bombs were used in what the Pentagon described as essentially a self-defence measure.

Speaking during his first presidential visit abroad, to Mexico, Mr Bush himself stressed it was a "routine" enforcement of the no-fly zones.

But while the Americans talked down the significance of the raid, analysts said it looked like a warning to the government in Baghdad.

Inflamed opinion

The raids coincided with the release of millions of dollars by Washington to Iraqi opposition groups to work inside the country to destabilise President Saddam Hussein's hold on power.

George Bush portrait on threshold of Rashid Hotel in Baghdad
Bush Snr is already a hate figure in Iraq
US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, ahead of his first visit to the Gulf region in his new role, says he wants to "re-energise" the sanctions that have been imposed on the Iraqi population in the last 10 years.

However, the rest of the world is likely to be less favourable. Russia led the way, with an almost instantaneous condemnation of the attacks.

The Arab world is already reeling from the election of ultra-hardline former general Ariel Sharon as prime minister in Israel.

The perceived aggression against Iraq will no doubt inflame anti-Western opinion even further.

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16 Feb 01 | Middle East
Russia condemns Baghdad bombing
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