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Sunday, September 12, 1999 Published at 01:51 GMT 02:51 UK


World: Middle East

Iraq strikes 'not working'

The sky lights up over Baghdad during last December's bombing

By Jeremy Bowen in Iraq

The campaign of daily air strikes against Iraq that the US and Britain have been conducting since December has produced stalemate.

The US and Britain are no closer to achieving their objective of ridding Iraq of the weapons capability they say it has.

Iraq, meanwhile, remains under sanctions and its citizens continue to die in the bombings.

Seventeen people were killed near the southern city of Najaf in an American air raid on 18 July, one of the latest strikes in an undeclared, almost ignored, war.

The Americans said the building they hit was a military site.

General Said Jaffim, commander of Iraqi air defence in this southern sector, said it was a place where food was stored.


[ image:  ]
He said we should not believe the US and Britain's insistence that they are attacking to uphold the authority of the United Nations.

"All of the people of Iraq like and love Mr President Saddam Hussein, so they want to break this relationship between us and our president, and this is not and not and not," the general said.

Asked if this was the reason why the US and Britain attacked Iraq, he said it was.

Stalemate

It is a major military commitment, but it is producing stalemate.

After all of the air raids and the sanctions, American and British policy towards Iraq just is not working.

It is not achieving its own objectives.

President Saddam Hussein seems to be very secure and he is still not letting UN weapon inspectors back into this country.

The dead from the raid on 18 July were buried close by, in the holy city of Najaf.

It was the worst loss of life in a day since Operation Desert Fox, the four-night blitz just before Christmas, which was to punish Iraq for stopping UN weapons inspections.

For the Iraqi people the pain of it all is very fresh, but the world outside has been distracted by other crises.

In one of Baghdad's teahouses they have not been distracted.

All they wanted to talk about were the latest attacks and nine years of crippling economic sanctions.

"Wherever you go you will find death," one man said. "People are dying. Do you understand me?"

"So please convey my message to the whole free thinkers in the world that they should stop these sanctions and this aggression."

These people's leaders believe they are ahead, insisting they are respecting UN resolutions and winning the argument on sanctions.

"Time has come that the Security Council should take the decision to leave the sanctions," Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said. "Any delay in that is a political trick."

He denied the charge by the US and Britain that Iraq had not fulfilled those requirements yet.

"That is what they have been saying for nine years and that is not true." The UN is hopelessly split on how to respond.

Outside its headquarters here, the inspectors' vehicles are about all that is left of Unscom, the UN weapons regime which was once a major part of western policy.

For Iraq it is looking like a victory.



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