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Friday, 16 February, 2001, 23:57 GMT
Iraqi opposition backs strikes
Tornado GR1 aircraft
RAF Tornado aircraft were used in the strike
The Iraqi National Congress has supported the "effective policing" of no-fly zones in Iraq by British and US forces.

In a statement, the London-based organisation of Iraqi opposition groups blamed Saddam Hussein's "aggression" for the air strikes by British and US warplanes.

It also called for the no-fly zones to be extended to protect "threatened" minorities in Iraq.

The statement said: "The INC deeply regrets that yet again it is the Iraqi people that are paying the price for Saddam Hussein's aggression and his refusal to comply with United Nations resolutions.

Saddam Hussein has put his army and the Iraqi people in the firing line

Sharif Ali
"Nevertheless the INC absolutely defends the need for effective policing by the allies of the no-fly zones.

"Without them, the people of the north and south of Iraq will fall victim once again to Saddam Hussein's brutality.

"Indeed the INC would welcome the extension of the area of the no-fly zone to the whole of Iraq and the extension of the terms of engagement of allied aircraft to cover the movement of any Iraqi military equipment that could be used against the Iraqi people."

Saddam blamed

Speaking to BBC News 24, INC spokesman Sharif Ali Bin AlHussein said: "Once again we tremendously regret that Saddam Hussein has put his army and the Iraqi people in the firing line.

"It is his policy of refusing to implement UN resolutions and futile attempts to challenge the allied air forces, then the Iraqi army pay the price.

"No-fly zones are in place to protect the civilian population from Saddam's revenge.

"He has used his air force before to bomb villages with chemical weapons.

"I can assure you Iraqi people are very pleased to see Allied aircraft protecting them rather than seeing Saddam's planes bombing them.

"We regret the civilian casualties, but we put the blame squarely on Saddam Hussein."

He said the INC felt that the crisis could only be resolved with "the removal of Saddam Hussein".

"He will lurch from crisis to crisis and it will be the Iraqi people that pay the price."

He added that no-fly zones were "essential" to the safety of the Kurdish people of north Iraq, and that the INC would like to see an extension of the principle of safe havens in the southern no-fly zone.

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16 Feb 01 | Middle East
US and UK planes bomb Baghdad
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