The United States strongly opposes any lifting of sanctions, which have now entered their 11th year, and maintains that Saddam Hussein is responsible for the suffering of his people.
Iraqi officials say that a U.N. oil-for-food deal that allows Baghdad to pay for essential food and medicine supplies through crude oil exports, but has been dogged by delays, has done little to alleviate the people’s suffering.
Iraq has rejected a U.N. resolution, which could ease the sanctions if Baghdad allowed the return of international arms inspectors checking on weapons of mass destruction. The inspectors have been barred since they left Iraq on the eve of a U.S.-British bombing campaign in December 1998.
Attacks in No-Fly Zone
Meanwhile, American and British jets today attacked air-defense targets in a northern Iraq “no-fly” zone in response to fire from Iraqi anti-aircraft missiles and guns, the U.S. military said.
It was the fourth such raid against targets in no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq in a week.
“Iraqi forces launched surface-to-air missiles and fired anti-aircraft artillery from sites north of Mosul” against aircraft that were routinely enforcing one of two such no-fly zones in Iraq, the U.S. European Command reported from Germany.
“Coalition aircraft responded to the Iraqi attacks by dropping ordnance on elements of the Iraqi integrated air defense system. All coalition aircraft departed the area safely.”
U.S. and British planes patrol the zones over southern and northern Iraq set up after the 1991 Gulf War. The zones, which Baghdad does not recognize, were imposed to protect a Kurdish enclave in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south from possible attacks by Iraqi government forces.
The planes have been bombing targets in the zones frequently since Baghdad stepped up its defiance of the Western-imposed restrictions in December 1998. Iraq says 300 civilians have been killed and 900 wounded in these attacks.