- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

Iraq's continued efforts to shoot down U.S. and allied warplanes patrolling no-fly zones over Iraq violate Baghdad's obligations under a new United Nations resolution, and will be responded to in an appropriate fashion, Pentagon officials said yesterday.
The U.S. government and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld regard the stepped-up attacks on aircraft as a "material breach" of the U.N. Security Council resolution passed Nov. 8, which orders Iraq to disarm its weapons of mass destruction, Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said.
"When and how actions become the precipitating force, if you will, for there to be military action of far greater scope than what we're doing in the no-fly zones is a decision for the president and others at that level to make," Ms. Clarke said.
She said the seriousness of the attacks could not be underestimated.
"And so we are going to respond in a time and a manner and a place of our choosing in an appropriate fashion."
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, however, said earlier this week that he did not believe the Security Council would regard the aircraft attacks as a violation of the resolution.
The resolution states that Iraq must not threaten or take hostile action against any U.N. representative or member state "taking action to uphold any Council resolutions." The air patrols were initiated to enforce U.N. resolutions imposed on Iraq at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
Navy Rear Adm. David A. Gove, deputy director for global operations, said Iraqi forces yesterday fired surface-to-air weapons at U.S. and allied aircraft patrolling over southern Iraq.
"We responded by dropping precision-guided munitions on three Iraqi air-defense communication facilities near al Kut and al-Basra," he said.
Adm. Gove said the firings, which U.S. officials have said include surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery, have increased in recent weeks.
Since Nov. 8, aircraft have been fired on 11 times in both the north and south, he said.
Also, Adm. Gove said Iraq is continuing to violate U.N. economic sanctions by illegally exporting oil.
Forty-two ships last week were found to be carrying contraband cargo, he said.
Ms. Clarke said the continued Iraqi firing was "stunning" behavior by Baghdad. The jet patrols, which operate under U.N. mandate, are aimed at protecting Iraqi dissidents from attack by Saddam's military forces.
The attacks come at the same time that Saddam is announcing that he will fully comply with the U.N. resolutions, she said.
The recent counterattacks, carried out by U.S. and British warplanes, have damaged Iraq's network air-defense system but the Iraqis also have been able to rebuild some of the weapons complex, Ms. Clarke said.


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