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Blair: Strikes Hurt Iraq Air Force

December 21, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ British-U.S. airstrikes on Iraq hit 100 sites and left the Iraqi air defense system ``in ruins,″ Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office said today.

The prime minister’s spokesman said sites targeted during the four-day bombardment that ended Saturday included 20 command and control facilities and nine sites linked to the elite Republican Guard.

Attacks on 35 other targets ``have left the Iraqi air defense system in ruins,″ said the spokesman. He spoke on customary condition of anonymity.

Six of the targets were related to delivery systems for Iraq’s remotely piloted weapons of mass destruction, he said.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said earlier that Britain’s next step would be to try to isolate Iraq in the world community and reduce any support Saddam Hussein’s regime has among Arab nations.

Cook said there also would be new attempts to get humanitarian aid directly to the Iraqi people.

``It’s not going to be easy,″ Cook told BBC Radio, ``because Saddam does everything possible to obstruct and prevent it, and it is very difficult to operate in Iraq without Saddam’s agreement given the brutality and savagery with which he represses all opposition.″

Cook said Britain also wants to ensure the United Nations monitoring of Iraq’s weapons program is maintained and that sanctions are better enforced.

Britain and the United States had said Iraq’s refusal to cooperate fully with the inspectors led them to attack. Iraq says it will no longer tolerate the weapons inspections.

Cook said the military strikes had destroyed Saddam’s ability to jam radio programs being broadcast into Iraq from opposition groups and news programs.

``We can try now to get the truth into the Iraqi people,″ he said.

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