Bush calls air strike "routine mission"

Yesterday’s powerful U.S.-British air strike against Iraq may well be described as both sudden and perfidious, while the Pentagon calls it a “self-defensive measure.” President Bush's approval was required, Gregory Newbold, a Pentagon spokesman, said, because the mission was not the usual small-scale attack that U.S. and British pilots have carried out almost routinely inside the no-fly zones. It was the first strike at targets outside the southern flight-restriction zone since December 1998, officials said. Dozens of support aircraft also were involved, including electronic jamming and radar control planes. The Pentagon said five targets were struck, including long-range surveillance radars and associated facilities that Iraq has allegedly used more frequently over the past six weeks to coordinate its defences against U.S. and British patrols. According to the Pentagon, no civilian objects were damaged, and no civilian was hurt. The Iraqi television, however, asserts that, at least 5 people, including 3 children, were killed and 8 wounded as the result of the strike. The eye-witnesses say there could be 6 powerful blasts heard during the air raid. Immediately after the attack, the Iraqi television interrupted its broadcasts. Then the announcer briefly appeared on the screens telling of the “attack by the American aggressors” after which there were continuous broadcasts of patriotic songs and footages of military parades. Late at night, President Saddam Hussein and other high-ranking Iraqi officials went on the air saying that the “Arab people should counter the aggressors.” Iraq vows to fight on to victory against the United States and blamed the first US bombing of Baghdad in two years on a Zionist plot. The pledge came in an official communique released after President Saddam Hussein chaired a meeting of military and political chiefs in Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council and the ruling Baath party. "The aggression will not force Iraq to give up its rights," said the statement. "Aggression and threats do not discourage Iraq." "Iraq will continue to fight them (enemies) on land, in the air and at sea. Iraq will finally win," it vowed. US President Bush was in Mexico meeting with President Vicente Fox at the time the missiles were launched at about 12:30 p.m. EST. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush gave the go-ahead on Thursday. In the meantime, the bombing raids of Baghdad have caused panic in Israel. It is rumoured that Iraq can retaliate with shelling Israel with chemical weapons. ''A routine mission was conducted to enforce the 'no-fly' zone'' over southern Iraq, Mr. Bush said Friday. He also said Saddam and his nation must not try to acquire or build weapons of mass destruction. ''If we catch him doing so, we'll take appropriate action,'' the US president warned.