British MOD: Attacks on U.S., British Fliers in Iraq Increasing
By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
BRUSSELS, Belgium, Jun. 5, 2002 Iraqi forces have resumed stepped-up attacks on U.S. and British fliers enforcing the northern and southern no-fly zones in that country, the British defense minister told American reporters today.
Accompanying Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from London for meetings here with other NATO defense ministers, Geoffrey Hoon spoke to reporters traveling with Rumsfeld.
"Immediately after Sept. 11, there was a fall-off of incidences over the no-fly zone. We judged that the regime in Iraq seemed to have gotten the message that military action would follow if they were not very, very careful," Hoon said. "In more recent times, there has been an increase in the number of attacks on aircraft."
He said it's important for the international community to "set out very clearly to the Iraqi regime the importance of accepting U.N. Security Council resolutions regarding weapons inspectors."
After the 1990-1991 Gulf War, the Security Council ordered Iraq to allow international inspectors to verify the country was no longer producing weapons of mass destruction. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein balked in October 1997 and dismantled the program through most of 1998 by expelling U.N. inspectors and ending cooperation.
There have been no inspections in the four years since. U.N. and Iraqi officials have been negotiating a restored inspection regime since March 2002.
Rumsfeld said earlier today in a London press conference with Hoon that Iraq is surely still developing such weapons and poses a threat to its neighbors.
"We know that the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq has had a sizable appetite for weapons of mass destruction. We know the borders into that country are quite porous," Rumsfeld said, noting that both illicit materials and legal materials with both military and civilian uses flow into Iraq regularly.
There is not a doubt in the world that Iraq's programs mature by a month with every month that passes, he said. "That is not a happy prospect for that region," Rumsfeld said. "This is an individual who has used chemical weapons on his own people, so there's not any great debate about what he and his regime are willing to do with weapons of mass destruction."
Rumsfeld and Hoon agreed the best way to ensure Iraq is no threat to the rest of the world is for Saddam Hussein not to be its president.
"Certainly we both believe that Iraq will be a much better place, not only for the region, but for its own people if Saddam Hussein was no longer in power in Iraq," Hoon said in London.