Thursday, March 4, 1999 Published at 09:12 GMT
Iraq engagement rules expanded
British pilots relax by their planes
The rules of engagement for US and UK planes patrolling the skies over Iraq have been expanded, UK Defence Secretary George Robertson has confirmed.
Mr Robertson said: "The Iraqis are trying to kill our pilots who are policing the no-fly zones. If they stop trying to kill our pilots we will stop defending ourselves.
Mr Robertson rejected suggestions that the patrols were part of an attempt to overthrow the Iraqi leader President Saddam Hussein.
He added: "There has been no change of policy, no change of purpose."
US Defence Secretary William Cohen also denied the new tactics represented a change in policy.
But during a Commons debate, Labour MP Tam Dalyell said more bombs had been dropped on Iraq since Operation Desert Fox than during the offensive.
"How can the rules of engagement be changed to this extent without a declaration of war?" he asked.
The defence secretary said there had been "50 threatening attempts and attacks on our pilots in the last 11 weeks and 100 incursions by a 150 Iraqi planes," into the no-fly zones.
The Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations, Saeed Hassan, said the British and American air strikes were an "illegal action" and called for them to stop.
He added: "We are determined to defend ourselves, we are determined to defend international law, we are determined to defend the charter of the UN and the security council resolutions.
"Nothing in these institutions permits the US or the UK to force against Iraq."
'Parliament should have been told'
Referring to the change in the rules of engagement Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Menzies Campbell said Parliament should have had a chance to discuss them.
He said: "When you change the rules of engagement, that is a very substantial change in policy.
"It is one thing to say that our pilots have the right to defend themselves if they are illuminated by radar from surface-to-air missiles sites.
"It is another to set out upon systematic degrading of the air defence system of Iraq. This is an issue on which Parliament is entitled to have a view."
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