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Britain hints at more strikes on Iraq if deemed necessary

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February 19, 2001 

  

LONDON--(AP) - Britain vowed Sunday to keep up the pressure on Iraq's Saddam Hussein despite widespread international criticism of Friday's U.S. and British air strikes near Baghdad.


Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said unless the no-fly zones protecting the Kurds in the north and the Shiite south were maintained, there was a danger that Saddam would use air power to attack his own people.


"Some of those who ask why we do it would be the very people who would be asking why are we not doing more if we were to abandon it and Saddam was to go back to bombing his own people from the air," Cook told the British Broadcasting Corp.


"When he was free to fly over the northern Iraqi area he used chemical weapons against the Kurds ... He would go back to doing that again if we allowed him to," Cook said.


Friday's raids targeted air defense sites north and south of Baghdad in what the Pentagon said was an operation to damage Iraq's improving capabilities to target U.S. and British planes patrolling no-fly zones.


Prime Minister Tony Blair also said the air strikes were justified by increased Iraqi air-defense activity. The prime minister said in a statement Saturday that the air strikes were a "limited operation" with the sole purpose of protecting the lives of the allied air crews.


However, Blair was coming under pressure from some of those within his own Labor Party over the raids. Lawmaker Jeremy Corbyn called the decision to join with the United States "craven."


"We are isolated in this. I think it's extremely dangerous, and the public reaction in this country is pretty hostile to it, and within the Labor Party, extremely hostile," he told GMTV.


In an editorial, The Observer newspaper urged Blair to put more distance between himself and the new U.S. administration of President George W. Bush.


"Bombing Iraq is purposeless," it said. "We need a better policy than bombing."


The raids were sharply criticized even by some key allies of the United States and Britain. Egypt spearheaded strong Arab opposition to the raids, which also drew condemnation from China, Russia, Cuba and NATO allies France and Turkey.



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