France Condemns Air Raids on Iraq[AP, 04/07/00] - France on Friday strongly condemned recent U.S.-British air raids in Iraq, calling them ``pointless and deadly.''
U.S. and British warplanes struck targets in southern Iraq on Thursday, and the Iraqi military said they hit residential areas, killing 14 civilians and injuring 19.
``The bombings, pointless and deadly, which have caused, according to our information, around 20 civilian victims over the past few days in southern Iraq, are disquieting,'' Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne Gazeau-Secret said at a news conference.
``We reaffirm our incomprehension, our profound unease in relation to the pursuit and intensification of the air strikes against Iraq, in which the people are the principal victims,'' Gazeau-Secret said.
Asked if she condemned the bombings, Gazeau-Secret said: ``We greatly deplore them.''
France - along with Britain and the United States - helped establish no-fly zones in the north and south of Iraq in 1991, at the end of the Persian Gulf War. However, since 1998, France has not actively taken part in patrolling the zones.
Iraq does not recognize the zones, which the allies say are meant to provide aerial protection from government forces for Shiite Muslims in the south and Kurds in the north. It began challenging the patrols in December 1998, and NATO forces often have responded by firing on Iraqi anti-aircraft and radar installations.
The U.S. military confirmed that planes carried out strikes, but said they were against military targets in response to attacks by Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery. A spokesman said there was no immediate indication of Iraqi casualties.
In Washington, State Department Spokesman James Rubin said Thursday that France ought to direct its remarks to Iraq.
``If there's no point to these raids by us, the French government would be well-advised to inform the Iraqi government ... to stop threatening American pilots, then there won't be any need for the raids,'' he told reporters.
Rubin said the no-fly zone was designed to prevent Iraq from using its air space ``to maul its own citizens.''
``And as a result of the no-fly zone, they haven't been able to do that. In order to keep that no-fly zone in place, we have to have protection for our pilots,'' he said.
The number of deaths reported in the strikes was the highest since Aug. 17, when Iraq said 19 civilians were killed and 11 were injured during attacks in northern and southern Iraq.
France's sharp criticism comes after the United States came under fire at the United Nations Security Council for its policy toward Baghdad, with accusations it is undermining U.N. relief efforts by blocking over $1 billion in goods bound for Iraq.
Iraq's friends on the council - Russia, France and China - held out the toughest criticism during an open meeting of the council on Mar. 24.
Russia on Friday also protested the most recent U.S.-British airstrikes on Iraq.
China Urges Western Planes to Stop Bombing Iraq[Reuters, 04/07/00] - China urged the United States and Britain to halt military action against Iraq and cancel the ``no-fly'' zones, the official Xinhua news agency said on Friday.
``China is really concerned over the recent developments in Iraq and feels deeply uneasy for the civilian casualties caused by the bombing,'' Xinhua quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi as saying.
Sun said China had consistently advocated that Iraq's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence should be fully respected.
The Iraqi news agency said 14 people were killed and 19 injured by Western air strikes in southern Iraq on Thursday.
The U.S. military's Central Command confirmed that U.S. attack jets and British Royal Air Force Tornadoes struck anti-aircraft artillery targets in southern Iraq on Thursday in response to ``repeated anti-aircraft fire'' against warplanes patrolling the no-fly zone in the region earlier in the day.
U.S. and British planes patrolling northern and southern Iraq frequently clash with Iraqi air defences.
No-fly zones were declared in the two regions after the 1991 Gulf War by the Western powers, who said they were needed to protect dissidents from Iraqi air power.