1. Archive

Iraq warns it will continue to challenge U.S. jets

Iraq warned Thursday that it would continue to challenge U.S. and British planes in the no-fly zones in the north and south of the country.

A U.S. spokesman said that American and British planes patrolled the zones Thursday without incident. "No violations have been reported in either no-fly zone," said Lt. Col. Pat Sivigny, a Pentagon spokesman.

He added that the United States had begun to scale down its presence in the Persian Gulf region.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, in comments in newspapers, said the confrontation with the United States and Britain, who launched airstrikes in December in a dispute over U.N. weapons inspectors, would continue. "The battle against the aggression and the aggressors will not stop," Aziz wrote in al-Thawra, the newspaper of the ruling Baath Party.

Baghdad also insisted that Iraqi air defenses had shot down an American or British plane Wednesday. "Heroes of our air defenses have fired missiles and shot down one of the hostile planes flying in Iraq's airspace," said Gen. Ali Hassan al-Majeed, a member of the powerful Revolutionary Command Council.

U.S. planes attacked Iraqi targets Wednesday for the second time this week after Baghdad fired missiles at British and U.S. aircraft monitoring the no-fly zones. No allied planes were lost, officials said.

Despite the clashes, the United States began to scale down its presence. The Pentagon said the USS Enterprise battle group carrier was set to leave the region as planned by the end of this week. The number of U.S. troops will drop from 29,900 to 22,000.