Five Iraqis killed in U.S., British air strike; Chief weapons inspector: '\'Loose ends'\' exist in agreement with Iraq
Five Iraqi civilians were killed and 11 others injured when US and British warplanes bombed southern Iraq, an Iraqi military spokesman said, quoted by the official INA news agency.
"Enemy warplanes bombed civilian installations in the town of Nassiriyah, 375 kilometers south of Baghdad, killing five Iraqi civilians and wounding 11 others," the spokesman said.
He claimed surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft batteries had forced the "enemy warplanes to flee to their base in Kuwait," and that the US and British aircraft had conducted 55 raids over 18 areas in the south of the country during the day.
The US military said earlier that US and British warplanes struck in southern Iraq Thursday after an aircraft came under fire as it dropped leaflets on Iraqi air defense positions warning gunners not to fire on coalition aircraft or "You could be next."
Meanwhile, U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, who gave a closed-door briefing to the 15-member Security Council on Thursday, will meet with Secretary of State Colin Powell and other U.S. officials on Friday, said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
"We don't think the inspectors should go under the current arrangements," Boucher said. "We want the inspectors to go with the full support of the Security Council." "Our views have not changed," he said, according to AP.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said that if inspectors are to return, "it's vital that ... they have the means and the ability and the will of the world to do their job."
Council diplomats said Blix told the closed-door meeting that a great deal of progress had been made but there were "loose ends" that need to be resolved, including access to eight presidential sites. The diplomats said Blix stated that he was a servant of the council and will continue to prepare for inspections, but new decisions by the council would have to be taken into account, the diplomats said.
A U.S. official said the United States was "very pleased" that Blix said there were loose ends. "We feel very confident that as we move forward here, a new resolution is needed and other council members will come to the determination that these loose ends are out there need to be confronted through a new Security Council resolution before any inspectors return," the official said, according to AP.
On his part, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Thursday Blix was planning to return to Baghdad. The U.N. chief told reporters it's "up to the council today or in the coming week to determine what the next stage would be."
"Of course, they are discussing a new resolution which may be passed. But Blix, in the meantime, continues his preparations," Annan said.
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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