US planes strike targets in Iraq

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The Independent Online

Responding to Iraqi anti-aircraft fire, US jets today bombed Iraqi air defense systems in the northern no-fly zone, the US military said in a statement.

Responding to Iraqi anti-aircraft fire, US jets today bombed Iraqi air defense systems in the northern no-fly zone, the US military said in a statement.

The US warplanes bombed air defense sites after Iraqi forces opened fire at US planes conducting routine patrols north of Mosul, some 250 miles (400 kilometres) north of Baghdad.

The strikes did not involve RAF aircraft.

All planes left the area safely, the Germany-based US European Command said in a statement.

The United States and Britain have been enforcing no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq since the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Planes patrolling the northern zone are based in the southern Turkish base of Incirlik.

Iraq, which regards the zones as violations of its territorial sovereignty, has been challenging the patrols since December 1998.

In Washington today, a Pentagon official said results of last weekend's airstrikes on Iraqi air defense sites were mediocre at best and that far fewer than half the targeted radars were damaged. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

Turkey criticized the US and Britain for those airstrikes, the first on Iraqi targets outside northern and southern no-fly zones in more than two years.

Despite hosting US and British warplanes, Turkey is trying to boost ties with Iraq and wants an easing of economic sanctions on its southern neighbour.

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