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U.S. Increases Air Power Over No-Fly Zone in Iraq

By Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 14, 1997 – Iraq will bear the consequences if it continues to violate the southern no-fly zone, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen warned.

The United States has put more planes in the air to enforce the no-fly zone, imposed by the United Nations in 1991, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth H. Bacon said in a news conference Oct. 9. "The Operation Southern Watch flights are flying farther north, ... closer to the 33rd parallel," he said.

The Iraqis have concentrated their air defense around Baghdad, about 30 to 40 miles north of the 33rd parallel. There are also heavily defended areas inside the no-fly zone, Bacon said. The Iraqi air force has 184 operational fighter aircraft.

Bacon did not rule out a link between no-fly zone violations and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's hostility toward the United Nations. "Our goal has been to get Saddam Hussein to comply with U.N. mandates and rules, which he has steadfastly refused to do," Bacon said.

Cohen said Hussein is chancing severe U.S. retribution by continuing to ignore the no-fly zone. "He is a posing a risk to himself, his pilots as such, whenever they start to challenge a no-fly zone," he said. "If they make a mistake, they will have to bear the consequences of it."

Two Tomahawk-capable U.S. Navy destroyers operating in the Persian Gulf were scheduled to extend their stay in the region until the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and its battle group arrived, said Bacon.

"We have a powerful military force in the gulf ready to protect our interests there," he said. "We have, in the past, used a variety of military assets including Tomahawk missiles and aircraft to protect our interests, and we will be able to do that in the future."

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