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Bush says Saddam still a menace

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  • Ami Isseroff
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 26, 2001
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      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
      Iraq faced
      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 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
      discuss details
      other than to say other U-2s had previously been shot at this year.

      "It continues the pattern of Iraqi aggressiveness in shooting at
      coalition aircraft,"
      Quigley said, stressing that the U.S. military retained the right to
      strike back after
      such incidents.

      Quigley later told Reuters that two Iraqi MiG fighter jets violated
      the southern
      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
      U.S. military
      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
      since the
      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
      air exclusion
      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
      repeatedly fired
      anti-aircraft guns and missiles at the warplanes, which have responded
      by dropping
      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
      the threat
      that he posed to his neighbours, to the region, to regional
      stability," State
      Department spokesman Philip Reeker told reporters.
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