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Foreign Secretary Robin Cook
"We remain very vigilant"
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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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Sunday, 18 February, 2001, 06:57 GMT
UK ready for more air strikes
Iraqi crowd
People in Iraq have demonstrated against the raids
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair says he is ready for further air strikes against Iraq if necessary, despite growing international condemnation of Friday's raid by British and American aircraft.

Mr Blair said the action was required to protect aircrews enforcing the no-fly zone over southern Iraq from the "increased threat" of anti-aircraft missiles.

Two of Britain's Nato allies have expressed misgivings about the bombing raids.

The purpose of all of this is to stop an extremely unpleasant and dangerous dictatorship extending its influence

Brian Wilson
Foreign Office minister
France said the attacks would make the search for a peaceful solution to the Iraqi problem more difficult, and Turkey has urged Washington to re-assess its policy.

Eight British and 16 American aircraft using long-range precision weapons were involved in the strikes on anti-aircraft sites near Baghdad. All returned safely.

Labour MP George Galloway, who has flown to Baghdad to inspect the damage caused by the strikes, has criticised Mr Blair and US President George W Bush for authorising them.

Mr Galloway has rejected the suggestion that aircrews were threatened.

"There has never been a single scratch inflicted on any single aeroplane, British or American, in the entire 10 years that they have been flying back and forward - illegally, I should add - across Iraqi territory," he said.

Raids 'justified'

But Foreign Office Minister Brian Wilson said the raids were justified.

"If we are to have no-fly zones in order to limit the attacks that Saddam Hussein can launch, then we have to defend our pilots.

"The purpose of all of this is to stop an extremely unpleasant and dangerous dictatorship extending its influence beyond the area within which sadly it exists at the present time."

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

Tony Blair
He said there was "manifold evidence" of Saddam Hussein's determination to retain and rebuild his weaponry.

"Since sanctions were imposed the simple fact is that Iraq has not used chemical weapons, and he hasn't invaded his neighbours. Before sanctions Iraq did all of these things."

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

"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

He said the no-fly zones were part of a wider mission to contain the Iraqi regime which engaged in "systematic repression" of its people and aimed 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

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

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

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.

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 insisted that further action was necessary.

Meeting of Revolutionary Command Council and Baath Party leadership
Saddam Hussein chaired a meeting of advisors after the air strikes
The no-fly zones are patrolled by the US and UK to protect Kurds and dissident groups from attacks by the Iraqi government.

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

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

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

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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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