Iraq 'made 22 attacks' on US and British aircraft

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The Independent Online

British and American aircraft were attacked by Iraqi missiles and multiple-rocket launchers more than 22 times during January, it was claimed today.

British and American aircraft were attacked by Iraqi missiles and multiple-rocket launchers more than 22 times during January, it was claimed today.

The figure was higher than for the whole of last year. Downing Street said it was a sign of Iraq stepping up its offensive activity since the New Year, possibly linked to Baghdad's acquisition of a new fibre-optic aircraft-detection system.

It was this system which was attacked in Friday's air strikes near Baghdad.

The strikes led to a torrent of international condemnation, headed by the Arab League, Russia, China and France.

The fibre-optic system is believed to increase the range at which allow Iraqi anti-aircraft units can spot Allied planes compared with conventional radar.

Meanwhile, it emerged that appeals from MPs for the recall of Parliament from its week-long recess to discuss the strikes have been turned down.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon wrote to MPs including Tony Benn to tell them that a recall was unnecessary, as the strikes - blamed by Baghdad for the death of two civilians - were not an escalation of violence or a change in policy.

Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence today stuck to their insistence that the attacks were necessary to defend the safety of Allied aircrew patrolling no-fly zones in the north and south of Iraq.

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