Iraqis still tracking U.S. jets in zone

Published Sept. 19, 1996|Updated Sept. 16, 2005

Iraqi air-defense systems have been tracking U.S. and allied warplanes on radar, an American military spokesman said Wednesday, but Baghdad has kept its promise not to fire on the aircraft.

The planes are patrolling "no-fly" zones in northern and southern Iraq. Although Baghdad has pledged not to fire at them, radar tracking continues, Lt. Col. Andrew Bourland said in a telephone interview from the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

"We merely picked up an indication that their (tracking) systems were turned on," Bourland said. "We only experienced minor indications from Iraqi surface-to-air encampments, which we don't consider any significant threat."

Fresh clashes involving two rival Kurdish groups also were reported Wednesday along the Iraq-Iran border. And U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Pelletreau met in Turkey with the leader of one of those factions, the Kurdistan Democratic Party's Massoud Barzani.

Neither man spoke with reporters afterward. U.S. officials have said they wanted to persuade Barzani, who recently allied with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, to share power with the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Iran claimed four Iraqi Kurds, including three children, were killed when a large refugee camp was shelled from the Iraqi side of the border. Iran's official news agency blamed the artillery and mortar fire on the Iraqi army and Barzani's forces.

Iran said the camp provides shelter for about 35,000 Iraqi Kurd refugees who have crossed the border since the latest turmoil began Aug. 31.

Barzani has said the KDP's temporary alliance with Hussein is over now that he is in control of northern Iraq. And Turkey, a U.S. ally, said it was willing to work with Barzani as the de facto leader of the region despite his links to Hussein.

Also Wednesday, the United States began airlifting 3,500 troops from Fort Hood, Texas, to Kuwait to join 1,200 others conducting war games there.