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Iraq Will Challenge ‘No-Fly’ Zones

January 6, 1999

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Iraqi air force jets will keep challenging the ``no-fly″ zones imposed by Western nations, Iraq’s defense minister said today, one day after a clash with U.S. aircraft.

Four U.S. Air Force and Navy jets fired on, and missed, four Iraqi MiGs testing the ``no-fly″ zone Tuesday over southern Iraq.

``We have to defend ourselves. We shall fly in our airspace and defend it until death,″ Lt. Gen. Sultan Hashem Ahmed told reporters following the first air confrontation between Iraq and the United States in six years.

The minister was attending a ceremony at the monument of the Unknown Soldier in Baghdad marking the 78th anniversary of Iraq’s armed forces.

U.S. officials said one of the Iraqi aircraft crashed, apparently after running out of fuel. Iraq insisted all its planes returned safely.

The United States, Britain and France set up the no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War. They are intended to protect Shiite Muslims and ethnic Kurds who rebelled against Saddam’s government after the war, but whose revolts were quickly quelled.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said today that the United States expected more confrontations from Saddam, saying ``defiance is his only strategy.″

Ahmed’s comments also followed an outspoken appeal by Saddam for the Arab masses to rise up against Arab leaders allied with the United States and Britain.

Saddam’s statement was carried on Qatar’s Al-Jazeera television, a satellite channel widely watched in the Arab world.

``Revolt, sons of the great Arab nation ... revolt and unseat those stooges, collaborators, throne dwarfs and cowards,″ the Iraqi leader said.

While he did not mention specific countries or leaders, he was apparently addressing the citizens of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt, which either support the U.S. and British forces in the Gulf or have criticized Saddam’s regime.

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