Iraq says it confronted attacking Allied planes
U.S. denies there was an attackFebruary 18, 1999
Web posted at: 6:03 p.m. EST (2303 GMT)
BAGHDAD, Iraq (Reuters) -- Iraq said it had forced Western warplanes to turn back Thursday after they attacked an air defense system in the northern no-fly zone.
The United States denied that any attack had occurred.
It was the second time this week that Iraq had reported Western airstrikes in the northern no-fly zone, which was set up to protect Iraqi Kurds after the 1991 Gulf War.
"In an aborted attempt on the will and endurance of our people, the killers did their cowardly act again and violated our national airspace," the Iraqi News Agency quoted a military statement as saying.
"Ten hostile formations violated our airspace from the northern region coming from Turkish airspace at 11:05 a.m. They involved F-14s, F-15s and F-16s supported by early warning systems from inside Turkish airspace and implemented 21 sorties over regions in Nineveh and Dohuk.
"The crows attacked one of our brave air defense units, which challenged them with different weapons and compelled them to flee ... returning to the dens of evil," it said.
"No such attack occurred," Pentagon spokesman Capt. Mike Doubleday said in Washington. "We had no incidents in operation Northern Watch today. There were some flights, but as I understand it, the weather up there was bad."
On Monday, U.S. military jets struck in Iraq's southern no-fly zone, intended to protect Shiite Muslims, and attacked air defenses in northern Iraq.
Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz returned to Baghdad from Turkey late Wednesday after failing to persuade Ankara to stop Western planes using the Turkish Incirlik base.
In an apparent reaction to the warplanes, Iraq demanded that Turkey immediately withdraw from its northern territory, where Ankara has sent troops to pursue guerrillas loyal to jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.
Iraq noted the Turkish incursion, which started this week, coincided with activities of the United States and Britain.
The Iraqi government "demands the Turkish government pull out its invading forces from inside Iraqi territories immediately and to stop repeating such practices," the Iraqi foreign ministry said.
"What arouses astonishment is that the new Turkish invasion comes at a time when Ankara carried out high-ranking political talks with the aim of promoting and developing relations," it said in apparent reference to Aziz's visit.
Turkish troops and air power have pushed more than 15 kilometers (nine miles) into northern Iraq to attack the guerrillas.
Ankara says it has the right to enter northern Iraq in pursuit of the rebels.
The Iraqi statement said Turkey's "claim of chasing rebellious elements doesn't give it the right to violate Iraqi land and air sovereignty."
It did not say whether Iraq would respond if Turkey did not withdraw or if it continued to let warplanes use Incirlik.
It said the only way to restore order to the north was by "direct cooperation and coordination" between the two states.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
U.S. promises retaliation if Iraq attacks Turkish base
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