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US President George W Bush
"We will take appropriate action"
 real 56k

The BBC's Peter Biles
"Last nights operation is being painted by the allies as a routine self-defence mission"
 real 56k

The BBC's Richard Lister in Washington
"Entirely right to authorise the strikes"
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Saturday, 17 February, 2001, 09:14 GMT
Iraq defiant over missile attack
Iraqi doctors treat an 11-year-old Iraqi boy at a hospital in Baghdad
Iraqi television showed alleged victims of the air raid
Iraq has reacted defiantly to the first US and UK air raids on targets close to Baghdad for two years.

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein held an emergency meeting with military and political chiefs after the bombing and issued a statement calling the action "criminal American aggression against Iraq".

In its latest report, the Iraqi news agency quoted authorities as saying that two civilians had been killed in the raid, and more than 20 wounded.

US President George W Bush
Mr Bush said he would enforce no-fly zones
Iraqi television showed pictures of the casualties, who included women and children, at Baghdad's Yarmouk hospital.

A total of 24 aircraft were involved in the attack on Iraqi air defence facilities south of the capital, Baghdad, on Friday evening.

The long-range missile attacks targeted five command-and-control radar positions outside the southern air exclusion zone, defence chiefs in Washington and London said.

'American aggression'

In a statement released after the meeting with Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council said the raids marked the beginning of further operations by what it called the Zionist entity - Israel - against Arabs and Palestinians.

Friday's raid
1620GMT: 24 planes start mission
1730GMT: Attack targets
1840GMT: Planes clear Iraqi airspace
The aggression will not force Iraq to give up its rights," said the statement.

"We will fight them in the air, land and sea and their aggression will achieve nothing but failure."

The US, for its part, has denied that the bombing represented any escalation or change in policy.

'Routine mission'

President George W Bush, speaking in Mexico on Friday, said it was a routine mission to enforce the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq.

"Saddam Hussein has got to understand that we expect him to conform to the agreement that he signed after Desert Storm," he told reporters, indicating that further air strikes would not be ruled out.

As part of the deal that ended the Gulf War, the Iraqi leader agreed to allow international inspections to search for chemical or biological weapons.

The UN disarmament commission withdrew its inspectors in December 1998, complaining that Baghdad was refusing access to suspected weapons sites.

A US general said the attack was intended to protect American planes that routinely patrol the air exclusion zones in northern and southern Iraq.

"We think we've accomplished what we were looking for in this sense - to degrade, disrupt the ability of the Iraqi air defences to coordinate attacks against our aircraft," said US General Gregory Newbold.

Joint operation

The UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) said all the aircraft had returned safely and initial reports were that the missiles had hit their targets successfully.

Lt.General Gregory Newbold
General Newbold: "Degrade and disrupt"
The MoD said the raids followed increased attacks on allied aircraft by the Iraqi air defences, with more surface-to-air missiles fired in January than in the whole of 2000.

It was the biggest single air strike against Iraq since Operation Desert Fox - a four-day bombing campaign in December 1998.

A BBC correspondent in Washington says Mr Bush's decision to authorise raids that he knew would overshadow his first foreign visit shows he is adopting a tough attitude towards Iraq.

The two no-fly zones were created by the US, Britain and France soon after the Gulf War. One zone is to the north of the 36th parallel, with a second to the south of the 33rd parallel.

The northern zone was established after Baghdad mobilised helicopter gunships to quell a Kurdish uprising. The southern zone was imposed to protect Shi'a Muslims who also rebelled against Baghdad.

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17 Feb 01 | Middle East
Little support for Iraq attack
17 Feb 01 | Middle East
Iraqi press calls for revenge
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