UK Denies Report That It Wants to Stop Iraq Bombing

London, Jan. 8 (Bloomberg)
-- The British government denied a report that it
will tell the incoming Bush administration it wants an end to the bombing of
southern Iraq by U.S. and U.K. aircraft. The report appeared in the Guardian,
citing no sources.

Bombing has been directed mainly at air defenses in the southern and northern
zones of the Middle Eastern state that were fixed after the end of the Gulf
War in 1991, and from which Iraqi aircraft are prohibited. A desire to end
the attacks follows criticism of their humanitarian impact, the newspaper

Alastair Campbell, Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman, said the
report was wrong. ``There's no change in our policy either on the bombing
action we take on a pretty regular basis in the no-fly zones, or on

He said the government has made clear that it has no wish to punish the Iraqi
people, or to continue with sanctions any longer than necessary. ``We believe
continued vigilance is necessary, and they do have to cooperate with the
United Nations, but there's little sign of that.''

International support for U.S. and U.K. policy has waned, with France and
Russia leading calls for a review of the sanctions regime and many of Iraq's
Arab neighbors opening talks with their former enemy.

U.S. president-elect George Bush said he plans to take a ``tough line'' with
Iraq and Colin Powell, his nominee secretary of state, said U.S. policy
towards President Saddam Hussein's regime needs to be ``re-energized.''
UN-imposed sanctions against Iraq are aimed at controlling weapons
development while the no-fly zones are intended to protect Shiites in the
south and Kurds in the north of the country.

The risk of pilots being shot down, and growing public concern at evidence
that victims of bombing have included civilians, has led the British
government to consider maintaining only the northern no-fly zone, the
Guardian said.

(Guardian, 1/8 p.1)

Jan/08/2001 8:02 ET

(C) Copyright 2000 Bloomberg L.P.

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