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Tuesday, August 10, 1999 Published at 22:39 GMT 23:39 UK

Iraqi anger at 'eclipse bombings'

An astronomy conference is being held in Mosul

The Iraqi authorities have accused the United States and Britain of bombing an area of northern Iraq where astronomers from all over the Middle East had gathered to observe Wednesday's eclipse of the sun.

American and British warplanes fired missiles for a second day at targets close to the city of Mosul that Washington describes as military installations.

Iraq says several people were killed in the attacks, and has appealed to the United Nations to demand a halt to further military activity during the eclipse.

A Pentagon spokesman said the United States would not suspend its air patrols, and if the Iraqis did not want to be attacked, then they should not challenge allied aircraft.

Two attacks

US planes patrolling the southern no-fly zone bombed five Iraqi military sites at around 1300GMT after being fired on by anti-aircraft artillery, according to a statement from the US Central Command.

Earlier on Tuesday, the US European Command based in Stuttgart, Germany, said US and British planes had in "self defence" bombed two military communication sites in the northern region of Mosul.

A report on Iraqi TV said: "The aggressors' planes fired three missiles at the region, resulting in the martyrdom and injury of a number of citizens. Some of the Arab satellite channels that were present in the area filmed the enemy bombing of the area.

"A spokesman for the preparatory committee supervising the scientific mission in charge of covering the eclipse phenomenon stated the following: 'This sinful act of aggression reflects the evil aggressors' rancour and meanness and shows their determination to prevent Iraq from covering this natural celestial phenomenon.'"

Such attacks have become almost a daily occurrence in Iraq, where allied planes patrol no-fly zones over the northern and southern ends of the country.

Iraq does not recognize the zones, which are not covered by any specific UN resolution.

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