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Iraqi jet tried to trap U.S. jets

From Kris Osborn

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•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An Iraqi fighter jet attempted to lead two U.S. fighter planes over a battery of surface-to-air missiles Friday in the no-fly zone over southern Iraq, Pentagon officials told CNN.

Aware of the missiles' location, the U.S. planes turned south to avoid the potential trap, a Defense Department spokesman said. The pilots knew the location of the missiles because of training and coalition surveillance capabilities, the spokesman said.

Pentagon officials describe this circumstance as a "SAM-bush" and say it has happened before. SAM is a military acronym for surface-to-air missiles.

Officials with the U.S. Central Command are investigating the incident.

The no-fly zones, designed to protect Kurds in northern Iraq and Shiites in the southern part of the country from the Iraqi regime, have been a bone of contention between the U.S.-British coalition and Iraq since they were established after the Persian Gulf War in 1991 -- without a specific U.N. resolution.

Iraqi officials insist the zones violate the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and they refuse to recognize them.

U.S. officials have cited U.N. Resolution 1441 -- the latest disarmament resolution -- to back up the no-fly zones and coalition response to hostile activity from the Iraqis.

The resolution says in part, "Iraq shall not take or threaten hostile acts directed against any representative or personnel of the United Nations ... [or] any member state taking action to uphold any [U.N. Security Council] resolution."

White House officials have said continued attempts by Iraq to target coalition aircraft amount to a "material breach" of the resolution that the U.N. Security Council passed November 8 calling for Iraq to disarm.

But U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that the attacks did not constitute a material breach.

Beginning in December 1998, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein began challenging the coalition enforcement by firing surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery, and targeting them with radar, according to the U.S. European Command.

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