George Robertson, the Secretary of State for Defence, told Parliament that air strikes during joint patrols in no-fly zones over Iraq were still a "purely defensive" response to attacks on British and United States pilots.
"We cannot simply ignore these attacks. We have therefore tailored the rules of engagement to reflect the escalation of the Iraqis in their systematic attacks on and threats to our aircraft," he said.
His announcement brought Britain into line with the US, which said on Tuesday that it had once again enlarged the list of targets its pilots were authorised to strike.
Government sources said pilots had extended their attacks to command and control bases in the region rather than just missile launch sites. One source said there was no military strategy in the pilots' actions. "If Saddam [Iraqi President Saddam Hussein] attacks, then we respond," he said.
Mr Robertson said that a change in the rules did not signal a change of policy on the no-fly zones. (Reuters)Reuse content