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Allies Strike to Protect Pilots in Iraq No-Fly Zones

Aired August 10, 2001 - 07:50   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: There's been a larger-than-usual strike in the southern no-fly zone of Iraq this morning that we're tracking for you here on CNN. Allied planes, more than 50 of them, were involved, hitting three targets in the southern no-fly zone. Now the U.S. has said that Iraq is increasingly threatening the planes that patrol those no-fly zones since the Gulf War.

And I'm going to get some reaction from the White House for you this morning on this. Major Garrett joins us now.

Major, what do you know?

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Colleen.

Administration officials tell CNN that this mission carried out by U.S. and British aircraft is not the kind of mission that requires prior presidential approval. Nevertheless, President Bush was notified before the mission started at the Western White House in Crawford, Texas. Administration official telling CNN, as we have said in the past, the allies intend to take any steps we deem necessary to protect our pilots patrolling the no-fly zones.

And as Jamie McIntyre has reported earlier, all 50 aircraft from the British government and the United States have exited safely Iraqi airspace. No confirmation yet if they have returned to their sea- based and land-based aircraft carriers or air bases - Colleen.

MCEDWARDS: Well, Major, is the White House talking this morning about any future plans, because, as we mentioned, this has been an ongoing problem from the perspective of the United States? And at one point, they were actually saying they were planning to do something significant.

GARRETT: Planning to respond to what had been a near miss of a U.S. U-2 surveillance plane after that near miss where the Iraqis fired and almost hit a U-2 surveillance plane. The United States said that was new technology the Iraqis were using, stepping up their attempts to shoot down aircraft either patrolling the no-fly zone or acting as surveillance aircraft. As far as future plans, no specifics, but when the administration says we will take any steps we deem necessary, you can bet this will continue.

One of the targets struck in this latest mission was a fiber- optic node that was also struck in February, all a part of an attempt by the British and the United States to degrade the Iraqi anti- aircraft system itself. So if in fact that node is rebuilt, as it was after struck in February, there's a good chance it'll be struck again - Colleen.

MCEDWARDS: All right. CNN's Major Garrett. That's right, a communications fiber-optic node was struck, a radar site was struck, a surface-to-air missile site was struck as well. Those were the three sites that were hit. We'll keep you up to date on this breaking story right here on CNN.

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