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The BBC's Polly Billington
"The attacks have provoked anger"
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Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook
"There is one very simple way in which the bombing can stop"
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Labour MP,Tony Benn
"The effect of this will be to bring the whole of the Middle East to a point of turmoil"
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Shadow defence secretary, Iain Duncan Smith
"You have to be firm"
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Saturday, 17 February, 2001, 19:12 GMT
Blair defends Iraq air strikes
Iraqi boy in hospital
Iraq claims children were among the casualties
Tony Blair has insisted he will do everything necessary to prevent Saddam Hussein from "wreaking havoc, suffering and death".

Friday's air strikes on anti-aircraft sites near Baghdad - involving eight British and 16 American aircraft - were in response to an "increased threat" to allied aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone.


I am determined to prevent his tyrannical regime from once again attacking Iraq's neighbours

Tony Blair

Mr Blair said the "limited operation" was necessary to cut the chances of an RAF plane being shot down.

And he maintained that Britain and the US would be ready to carry out further raids if the threat from Iraqi surface-to-air missiles continued.

"Operations such as the one last night would not be needed if Saddam stopped attacking us," he said in a statement on Saturday.

"But as long as he does, I will continue to take the steps necessary to protect our forces and to prevent Saddam from once again wreaking havoc, suffering and death."

Wider mission

Mr Blair asserted that the no-fly zones were part of a wider mission to contain the Iraqi regime which engaged in "systematic repression" of its people as well as trying to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Friday's raid on Iraq
1620GMT: 24 planes start mission
1730GMT: Attack targets
1840GMT: Planes clear Iraqi airspace

"I am determined to prevent his tyrannical regime from once again attacking Iraq's neighbours and to ensure the humanitarian crises we witnessed after the Gulf War should not be repeated."

But Labour MP Tony Benn believes the attack cannot be justified in international law and wants an immediate recall of parliament.

About 50 demonstrators from Voices in the Wilderness, a group which campaigns for the lifting of economic sanctions on Iraq, gathered outside Downing Street on Saturday to condemn the air strikes.

Downing Street protest
Downing Street protesters say bombing strengthens Saddam

Jean Lambert, Green Party MEP for London, said the bombing risked destabilising the area: "It is no solution to the plight of the Iraqi peoples."

The Iraqis say two civilians were killed, and 20 others were injured, some seriously, in the bombings.

Speaking on his arrival at the Labour spring conference in Glasgow, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said: "We cannot ask British pilots to patrol the no-fly zones and not act when we see Saddam Hussein preparing to shoot them down."

Click here to see a map of the area

Shadow defence secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the right decision had been taken because of provocative Iraqi behaviour.

But he insisted that further action against Saddam Hussein was necessary.

"We can't just sit on the no-fly zone. We have to find some way of sorting him out.

"He has showed himself resolute in trying to destabilise the region."

The no-fly zones are patrolled by the US and UK to protect Kurds and dissident groups from attacks by the Iraqi Government.

Regular clashes

There have been regular clashes between US and British planes and Iraqi defences.

But Mr Benn told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "America and Britain have engaged in a terrorist attack upon Baghdad."

He added that the situation may "have got out of control" by the time parliament is due to meet on 26 February.

Meeting of Revolutionary Command Council and Baath Party leadership
Saddam Hussein chaired a meeting of advisors after the air strikes
Five military installations within 20 miles of Baghdad were targeted, including some north of the 33rd parallel marking the limit of the southern Iraqi no-fly zone.

The MoD said more missiles were fired at allied aircraft in January than during all of last year.

Downing Street said Mr Hoon authorised the raids earlier this week following discussions with the Americans.

Shortly after the attack, Iraqi military installations launched anti-aircraft fire and some surface-to-air missiles.

The British and US aircraft used were from land bases and aircraft carriers in the region and fired long-range precision-guided weapons before returning to their bases safely.

The strikes came as the Prince of Wales flew into Saudi Arabia on an official state visit to the Al-Faisaliah Centre in the capital Riyadh.


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See also:

17 Feb 01 | Scotland
Labour MP attacks bombing raids
17 Feb 01 | Middle East
Iraq defiant as allies strike
17 Feb 01 | Middle East
Iraqi press calls for revenge
17 Feb 01 | Middle East
Little support for Iraq attack
16 Feb 01 | Middle East
Analysis: A tougher line?
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