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US Ambassador: Iraq Threatens Fire

November 3, 1997

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Iraq has threatened to shoot down U.S. surveillance planes that fly over its airspace as part of U.N. weapons inspections, U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson said today.

Arab sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Iraqi Ambassador Nizar Hamdoon sent a letter to chief weapons inspector Richard Butler on Sunday warning him that Iraqi forces were on alert for a possible U.S. air strike.

The letter told Butler that he must assume responsibility for authorizing surveillance flights ``...in anticipation of possible aggression,″ the sources said. They spoke on condition of anonymity.

Richardson called the Iraqi threat an ``irresponsible escalation″ of the crisis between the United Nations and Iraq over American weapons inspectors.

``This is a direct threat on the United Nations,″ Richardson told reporters following a meeting at U.N. headquarters. ``A direct military threat to the United Nations.″

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