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Monday, 22 April, 2002, 21:43 GMT 22:43 UK
Iraq 'moving up anti-aircraft missiles'
Allied aircraft have already been threatened by missiles
Iraq has been moving more anti-aircraft missiles into the no-fly zones in the north and south of the country, according to the United States.

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein: Oil embargo call

Although Iraq has a history of missiles in and out of the no-fly zones, the most recent movements are the largest in a few years, said US General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The no-fly zones, which are patrolled by US and British aircraft, were created after the 1991 Gulf War to prevent the Iraqi military from using its aircraft against minority Kurds in the north and against Shiite Muslim rebels in the south.

The British and US pilots in northern Iraq have been threatened by Iraqi air defences three times since 1 April, said General Myers.

'Protest and solidarity'

In one incident, an allied air patrol in southern Iraq "was forced to respond" with a guided bomb strike on a surface-to-air missile system radar, he said.

Last year, Iraq frequently challenged allied air patrols by targeting them with radars or firing anti-aircraft artillery guns or surface-to-air missiles.

The latest move came as Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein renewed a call on fellow Arab oil exporting countries to start using oil as a weapon to help the Palestinians.

He appealed to them to cut their oil exports in half and to stop selling to America completely to punish it for its perceived support for Israel.

Saudis step in

An export reduction would, he said, "ring the bells of protest and solidarity".

But his call for them to pick up the oil weapon appears to be falling on deaf ears, says our correspondent.

It comes two weeks after Iraq decided to cut all its own oil exports allowed under the UN Oil for Food Programme for a month in response to Israel's military offensive in the West Bank.

Oil prices rose as a result, but Saudi Arabia the world's biggest oil exporter has now promised to make up for any shortfall in supply.

See also:

08 Apr 02 | Media reports
Saddam announces oil stoppage: Text
08 Apr 02 | Business
Opec warns of oil crisis
08 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Blair bids to calm Iraq fears
05 Apr 02 | Business
Iran wields oil embargo threat
02 Apr 02 | Business
Oil surges on Iraqi supply threat
08 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Blair flies back to Iraq storm
05 Apr 02 | Business
Analysis: Another oil embargo?
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