THE LATEST crisis between Iraq and the United States was defused yesterday after Baghdad complied with an ultimatum to remove anti-aircraft missiles from the no-fly zone in the south of the country.
The White House confirmed that Iraq was 'acceding to the requirements' spelled out in the ultimatum delivered to it last Wednesday by the US, Britain, France and Russia. The five batteries of ageing Soviet-made missiles no longer threatened US jets, it said.
'Once again Saddam Hussein has backed down in the face of alliance solidarity,' said President Bush's spokesman, Marlin Fitzwater. He added scornfully that Saddam remained the pariah of the international community.
Though the immediate crisis seemed to have passed, US officials insisted that the ultimatum remained in force. No further warning would be given if Baghdad moved the missiles back into threatening positions. 'The hammer is still hanging there,' one official remarked.
Baghdad, meanwhile, gave no sign of acknowledging any kind of climbdown. A spokesman for Saddam Hussein, writing in the government daily, the Al- Jumhouriya, enjoined Iraqis to prepare for an 'honourable holy war' against the US and its allies. Iraq had 'no choice but to resist and fight for survival'.
In another sign of belligerence, Iraq declared that it was preparing to ban the flights into the country of United Nations inspection staff on UN aircraft. Rejecting the order, the UN Security Council said it would make further work of the inspection teams all but impossible.Reuse content