Bush says Saddam still a menace
- Friday July 27, 02:02 AM
Bush says Saddam still a menace
By Charles Aldinger
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush has
branded Iraq's President Saddam Hussein as "still a menace"
after a close-shave attempt by Baghdad's military to shoot down a
U.S. U-2 spy plane.
"We're going to keep the pressure on Iraq," Bush said at the White
House when asked by reporters about Tuesday's attempt to hit the
high-flying U-2 using a Russian-made anti-aircraft missile in a
"no-fly" zone over southern Iraq.
"The no-fly zone is still in place. Plus I'm analysing the data from
the incident you talked about," the president said.
"There is no question that Saddam Hussein is still a menace and a
problem. And the United States and our allies must (keep) the
pressure on him."
Senior U.S. defence officials told Reuters that the missile just
missed the unarmed, single-seat U-2. One said the pilot felt a
shock wave and the close call was a surprise because the missile,
believed to be a SAM-2 modified with extra fuel, was apparently
fired without the use of targeting radar.
U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has warned that U.S.
and British pilots patrolling no-fly zones over northern and southern
increasing danger from attempts by Saddam's forces to down their first
warplane in a decade of enforcing the zones since the 1991 Gulf War.
"WE ARE CONCERNED" - U.S. OFFICIAL
"We are concerned that the Iraqis might be using some new tactics or
We are looking into it," said one Pentagon official. "I remind you
that we reserve the
right to respond to such attempts at the place and time of our choosing."
Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, a Pentagon spokesman, confirmed at a regular
Department briefing that the plane had been fired at, but refused to
other than to say other U-2s had previously been shot at this year.
"It continues the pattern of Iraqi aggressiveness in shooting at
Quigley said, stressing that the U.S. military retained the right to
strike back after
Quigley later told Reuters that two Iraqi MiG fighter jets violated
no-fly zone earlier this week and appeared to be headed toward a small
aerial reconnaissance vehicle in a possible attempt to shoot it down.
But Quigley said the two jets quickly turned around and flew out of
the zone into
central Iraq without firing their missiles or canon.
The White House brushed off the attack on the U-2, stressing that the
would continue to protect Washington's interests in the region.
"There's always been a game of cat-and-mouse there in the Persian Gulf
end of the Gulf War. And the president has made it clear he will
continue to protect
America's interests in the region," White House spokesman Ari Fleshier
"That's what you see happening and, frankly, that is nothing new," he
U.S. and British warplanes have been patrolling the no-fly zones since
the Gulf War.
Iraq was banned from using all aircraft, including helicopters, in the
zones, set up by Western powers to protect minority Kurds and Shiites
in Iraq from
attack by Saddam's military.
No allied aircraft have been lost, although the Iraqi military has
anti-aircraft guns and missiles at the warplanes, which have responded
bombs and firing missiles at Iraqi air defence sites.
The Bush administration is trying to reform U.N. sanctions on Iraq to
make them less
onerous on the Iraqi people and is reviewing its level of support for
groups but has shown no inclination to change its policy on the no-fly
"Our policy has been focused on keeping (Saddam) isolated, containing
that he posed to his neighbours, to the region, to regional
Department spokesman Philip Reeker told reporters.