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The BBC's Barbara Plett in Baghdad
"Baghdad... has vowed to continue targeting the Western war planes"
 real 28k

Laurence Korb, Council on Foreign relations
"Whenever you have a new administration in Washington, Saddam always wants to see how far he can go"
 real 28k

The BBC's Tom Carver in Washington
"Pentagon officials admit...that only one third of the targets were damaged"
 real 28k

Thursday, 22 February, 2001, 22:42 GMT
Iraq hit by new air strikes
American F 15 patrolling northern no-fly zone over Iraq
The aircraft were on routine patrol according to the US
United States warplanes have struck air defence targets in northern Iraq, the US military says.

The attack - north of the city of Mosul - was the first since air strikes were launched at targets near the Iraqi capital Baghdad last week.

US forces' European Command said the strike was in retaliation for anti-aircraft artillery being fired at aircraft patrolling the air exclusion zone imposed by the UK-US coalition which covers much of the north of the country.

Map
"Coalition aircraft responded to the Iraqi attacks by dropping ordnance on elements of the Iraqi integrated air defence system," the US command said in a statement.

Last Friday's bombing was the first time targets near the Iraqi capital have been attacked for more than two years, although there have been numerous attacks on outlying regions in that time in response to the threat of Iraqi artillery fire against coalition planes.

International anger

The attack prompted angry protests in the Middle East and beyond, also souring UN-Iraqi relations ahead of key talks aimed at paving the way for a lifting of the decade-old embargo on Iraq.

Iraqi anti-aircraft defence
Iraqi anti-aircraft defences have been targeting patrols for two year
Russia, which says the air exclusion zones imposed on Iraq are illegal, denounced the latest strike, describing it as a "new defiance of world opinion".

BBC Washington correspondent Tom Carver says Thursday's air strike appears to be a quick response measure - in contrast to last week's when at least 24 planes attacked a number of radar and communication installations in a carefully planned operation.

Official sources in London said the Royal Air Force was not involved in the latest operation, and described it as being something that "has been going on routinely over a period of time".

'Unexploded missile'

An Iraqi newspaper reported that the military defused an unexploded guided missile found on farmland near Baghdad - apparently from last week's bombing.

Earlier, Pentagon officials admitted that most of the laser-guided bombs dropped on Iraq last week actually missed their targets.

Officials quoted by Associated Press said America's newest smart bombs performed far worse than expected, with damage detected on only 40% of the targeted radar installations.

Checks are now being carried out to see if this might have been due to a software error.

The Iraqi report says work is being done to defuse other unexploded ordnance, but it gave no further details.

Bush defence

US President George W Bush said Thursday he was disturbed by news that China is helping Iraq improve its air defences.

"We're concerned about the Chinese presence in Iraq," Mr Bush said. Washington, he added, was "sending the appropriate response" to Beijing.

The Pentagon reported earlier this week Chinese civilian and military engineers were helping lay fiber-optic cables to improve the reliability of Iraq's air defence network.

The US and Britain justified last Friday's air strikes against targets near Baghdad by arguing that there was an "increased threat" to allied aircraft patrolling the air exclusion zones - in part due to the installation of the fiber-optic technology.

The US president expressed satisfaction with the effectiveness of the air strikes despite the low strike rate.

"We had two missions," Mr Bush said. "One was to send a clear message to Saddam. The other was to degrade the capacity of Saddam to injure our pilots. I believe we succeeded in both those missions."

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See also:

22 Feb 01 | Middle East
Smart bombs 'missed Iraqi targets'
16 Feb 01 | Middle East
Analysis: A tougher line?
16 Jan 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Saddam and the future
22 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Blair defends new Iraq strikes
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