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Breaking News

U.S., Britain Launch Air Strike Against Iraqi Radar Installations

Aired February 16, 2001 - 1:31 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: You just heard our reporter in Baghdad, Jane Arraf, telling us about anti-aircraft fire over Baghdad -- air- raid sirens, military music on the state-run television.

We have our military affairs correspondent out of Washington, Jamie McIntyre is also picking up some signals about this.

What are you hearing, Jamie?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, Pentagon sources tell CNN that there has been a U.S. military strike in the south of Baghdad against two command and communications facilities that were, apparently, controlling air defenses in the south.

Now, Pentagon sources tell us that the U.S. aircraft that participated in this -- these strikes did not move above the 33rd parallel, which is the northern boundary of the northern no-fly zone. Normally all of the strikes have been within the no-fly zone area where U.S. planes routinely patrol. But in recent weeks there has been increased activity, increased threatening of U.S. and British planes that patrol that southern no-fly zone. And recently, source say, they put -- the U.S. figured out that some of these air defenses were being controlled by command control and communication centers that were just outside the no-fly zone, just south of Baghdad.

So a raid was mounted today to try to take out two of those centers in order to reduce the threat to U.S. planes. Again, they were just south of Baghdad, north of the 33rd parallel of the no-fly zone, but U.S. officials say that the U.S. aircraft did not go above the no-fly zone boundary in order to conduct these strikes. And we were told that, just as a few moments ago, that the planes were still leaving the area; there was some concern that the Pentagon -- that they did not want to announce these strikes until after that had taken place.

Now, strikes in the no-fly zone -- in the northern and southern no-fly zones -- have become fairly routine over the last year or so; happening every day or two, sometimes every third day or so as the United States continues to strike at air defenses and Iraq continues to not accept the no-fly zones -- continue to threaten U.S. and British planes that patrol them. So these strikes have become fairly routine. But what makes this unusual is that these strikes were conducted outside the boundaries of the no-fly zone and were very close to Baghdad; as you heard Jane Arraf say, they could hear the explosions, they saw the anti-aircraft fire.

At this point it appears that there have been no casualties on the U.S. side, but again, Pentagon officials were being cautious because, as of the last report we had, those planes had not yet fully left the area.

WATERS: A couple of questions, Jamie. First of all, the command and control facilities you're talking about, what are they, essentially, and what threat do they pose to U.S. forces?

MCINTYRE: Well, Pentagon officials say that they've been concerned in recent weeks because the Iraqis seem to be refining their tactics and being even more clever in how they try to hide what they were doing and how they tried to threaten the planes that were paroling the no-fly zones. And they say that, through various intelligence means, they were able to figure out that some of these weapon systems in the south were actually being controlled and directed by communications centers and command centers that were above the no-fly zone. Therefore, theoretically, not subject to attack, or in a safer area.

But what the United States has made clear now is that it doesn't feel limited by striking within the no-fly zones if they feel the threat to allied planes is coming from somewhere outside the no-fly zones; and that was the case in this instance.

WATERS: So, if I'm following along correctly, the planes -- the attacking planes fired missiles across this 33rd parallel, is that what...

MCINTYRE: I'm not exactly sure what kind of weapon was used but, for instance, there's several stand-off weapons that can be fired from U.S. planes. And by stand-off you mean exactly that: that you can fire them from some distance away from the target, you don't have to fly over them.

One that has been used in Iraq, for instance, is the AGM-130, a video-guided bomb -- a bomb with a video camera in the nose that's actually guided by the pilot in the backseat of the plane toward the target. That would be one kind of a weapon that could be used. But there are also other stand-off weapons that can be fired from U.S. military aircraft.

WATERS: And you're suggesting that these kinds of attacks are fairly routine?

MCINTYRE: Well, the United States has been bombing Iraq now for, since the end of Operation Desert Fox in 1998. Shortly after that, in December of 1998, late in December, Iraq said that it no longer would -- excuse me -- abide by the no-fly zones, and it became -- actively trying to shoot down U.S. planes. And since that time the -- excuse me -- the United States has been bombing Iraq on the average of once or twice a week, just as a matter of routine as the Iraqi gunners continue to fire at the planes and fire missiles at them and the U.S. continues to strike back. And that has been a game -- a confrontation that has been going on at sort of a low-level for quite sometime.

But, again, what makes this unusual is that the strikes took place outside the no-fly zone boundaries.

WATERS: While we talk about this, Jamie, I understand there's some videotape from Baghdad coming in; we'll just run that for you.

To bring up to speed anyone who might be just checking in, air- raid sirens went off over Baghdad, anti-aircraft fire was at least heard by our reporter, our correspondent Jane Arraf in Baghdad. And now Jamie McIntyre, our military affairs correspondent confirms that it was a U.S. air strike.

Do we know where this air strike originated, Jamie?

MCINTYRE: Well, I believe, from what we've heard in initial reports, that these were both land-based planes that would have been based in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, as well as carrier-based aircraft from a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. But these are very initial reports; we haven't really had time to go back and fill in and find out any more details about exactly -- but I believe both land- based and carrier-based U.S. aircraft carried out these strikes south of Baghdad today.

WATERS: I guess what I was getting at about the routine attacks is, is there any difference between the existing U.S. policy on these matters and the Bush administration coming into office -- are they just following through, or is this something new?

MCINTYRE: No, this has been the policy ever since Iraq began to resist the enforcement of the no-fly zones. And early on the United States made it clear that it was no longer going to be limited to simply striking back at something that threatened them directly, but it would consider the entire Iraqi air defense system as a potential threat and fair game if U.S. planes were threatened in the no fly zones while patrolling those no-fly zones.

And this is another example of that. They don't feel that they're limited by just the -- for instance, a missile system that might threaten them below the no-fly zone boundary; but if they find out that that's being controlled by an area outside the no-fly zone, that is not a safe haven. According to the United States, it has the right to strike those facilities, and that's apparently what's happened today.

Again, appears that command and control and communications command centers south of Baghdad were struck by U.S. planes using some kind of stand-off weapon so that the planes could complete their military action within the no-fly zone boundary, which -- the northern boundary is the 33rd parallel, which comes right to the south, the suburbs of Baghdad; that's where the strike was able to be carried out. They say the planes did not cross over into Baghdad airspace, but conducted it from within the no-fly zone. But, again, attack these targets just north of that no-fly zone boundary.

WATERS: And would you expect that Iraq would consider this some kind of violation?

MCINTYRE: They've considered all of the attacks a violation. Iraq has complained bitterly that these no-fly zones are illegal. They claim that the U.N. resolutions that the United States cites in order to enforce them don't specifically authorize the no-fly zones. They claim that hundreds of civilians have been killed in these retaliatory raids by the United States, although the U.S. concedes that there have been probably some innocent civilians killed, they say the numbers by Iraq are grossly exaggerated, and in many cases they are, in fact, military casualties that they're being told are civilians.

So this has been, again, a point of contention; really it's sort of been a low-level war that's been going on between the United States, Great Britain and Iraq ever since the end of Operation Desert Strike in 1998.

WATERS: OK; Jamie, we're going to give you a chance to catch your breath, check your sources.

We're going to check more on this now -- here's Natalie.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Back now to Jane Arraf, our reporter who is in Baghdad and heard the antiaircraft fire and explosions there tonight.

And, Jane, now we've learned from Jamie at the Pentagon that this was a U.S. strike against command-and-communications facilities. For those who may just be tuning into CNN as they hear about this, Jane, tell us again how this evolved and what you heard there tonight.

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, air-raid sirens sounded here just about less than an hour ago. Air-raid sirens haven't been heard here in quite a long time. It's a regular Friday night, the regular Friday holiday. Streets were full of people when the sirens sound. People were told it was a test. But it became clear about 10 minutes later it was no test. I heard the sound of a very loud explosion. In other parts of the city, people also heard explosions and the sound of antiaircraft fire.

Official Iraqi radio instantly switched to military music, which is an indication that there is either an attack going on or a military incident of some sort. Iraqi television also switched to military music and broke out of its regular programming. The government has not issued a statement so far, but says it will soon. And, so far, they are not allowing anyone to take pictures, even of the night sky -- not allowing to go live anymore. They say they are in a state of security and under siege, is the word here -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Jane, do you know or have the information on where -- what facilities might have been targeted specifically and how far south of Baghdad these might be located? And where are you in Baghdad? ARRAF: We are in the center of Baghdad. And the explosions were loud enough to have been heard all over the city, which indicates that they were close to the city center.

Again, as Jamie mentioned, this is unusual in that it was targeting outside the no-fly zones, which Iraq will see as a direct attack on Baghdad. And it was an air strike at night. We have no idea where it hit. That information would not be released by the Iraqi government. But if it was anywhere near populated areas, this would be a time of night -- and specifically the day, the Friday holiday -- when the streets would be full of people -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Jane, could you elaborate there, from the Iraqi standpoint, what the Iraqi view has been toward the no-fly zones and the activity that has gone on there since 1998 when Iraq announced it would no longer abide with the no-fly zones? We heard Jamie talking about the skirmishes that have taken place.

ARRAF: Iraq essentially believes that the U.S. and British patrols of the no-fly zones in the north and south are an aggression -- a daily aggression on its airspace. That's why we have these clashes, because Iraq announced that it would no longer accept what it believes is an illegal activity. It's not backed by specific U.N. resolution.

This is an action taken by the United States and Britain -- and originally France, which has since dropped out -- saying they needed to patrol the skies in the north and south to protect the Shias in the south and the Kurds in the north -- Iraq's minorities -- from any potential threats from the Iraqi government.

Iraq says that they are not under any threat. And it claims -- and has quite a lot of Arab support, what appears to be growing support -- that its skies are its own. And it has been trying to shoot down a U.S. and British plane for the last two years. So far it has had no success. But this is one of the things that it is vehemently opposed to. And it says that it will never be able to even discuss things like allowing in weapon inspectors while it is under what it calls still-daily attacks -- Natalie.

ALLEN: How has Iraq handled this with the citizens there? Has it widely reported about what has been going on in these no-fly zones and where its stance is?

ARRAF: Given that Iraq is quite a closed society to begin with and believes that it is under a state of siege, and has been since the Gulf War, there's no information giving out -- given out by the government. People are essentially kept in the dark. The only thing that they go on are rumors, which, as you can imagine, spread like wildfire in situations like this.

People have become used to antiaircraft fire, air raids over the past few years. But for the past couple of years, there have been no attacks in Baghdad. When the air-raids sirens sounded, you could hear people visibly start and look around in a very worried way. Obviously, this has brought back memories of previous bombings. But they had gotten used to the quiet lately -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Yes. Since there have not been reports about what's been taking place in these no-fly zones, the people just have -- I would imagine people are flabbergasted about what is going on there tonight. Have you have been able to talk with anyone yet?

ARRAF: The thing is, Iraq has either been in a state of war or a state of sanctions and continued military -- what it calls aggression for almost all of the past 20 years. This is a very heavily military -- militarized society. And even in peaceful times, the streets are full of security people and full of policemen.

The indications now from Iraqi TV playing military music are a clear sign to the people that something is going on. And the problem is that, even though they are told something is going on, they are very rarely told of what is going on. And that will certainly have to wait until the details emerge. When the details emerge, they probably will not be from the Iraqi government. The Iraqi government considers details of attacks military secrets. But word does get around -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And I remember when President Clinton came -- became president of the United States, Iraq tested his resolve a little bit after George Bush stepped aside. And there were some attacks as well then. And the U.S. retaliated as well. Has there been any word from Saddam Hussein or any leaders there about what they think about a new George W. Bush and what they hope might be their future under a new Bush presidency?

ARRAF: The essential line here is that it doesn't matter who is in charge of the United States, that the U.S. will maintain a hostile policy. But every time there is a new administration, the government here has been hoping that it perhaps has a chance to make more political headway and to have sanctions lifted.

The official feeling here as well has been, since the Gulf War -- certainly, increasingly over the last couple of years, since the weapons inspectors left two years ago -- that they could be ready any time for a U.S. attack. Things have been relatively quiet. There have been no military moves on the part of Iraq other than the continued clashes in the no-fly zones, where it says it is responding to American aggression.

Now, Iraq has been trying to shoot down these planes. But the U.S. and Britain have responded in the last year by widening their rules of engagement. They say that they're not targeting specifically only antiaircraft defenses, but targeting other things as well. Iraq says that this is clearly an attack on its infrastructure. And it points out that many civilians are killed in these attacks. The United States, of course, says this is because civilians are placed in military areas. But the tragedy is that civilians are being killed. Iraq says that it is its duty to keep shooting at these planes.

In terms of a wider military attack, there have been no indications that anything might be coming. And the feeling is that there would have to be quite a significant provocation on the part of Iraqi military to cause such an attack as what happened tonight. Again, we are not sure of the reasons for this and what exactly was targeted. But there have been more rumblings here on the military front, but directed at Israel. President Saddam Hussein has said increasingly over the last months, with the violence in the West Bank of Gaza, that Iraq is dying to attack Israel and will if it has an opportunity -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Jane Arraf, we thank you very much, our correspondent there in Baghdad, giving us background on what has been the relationship there between Baghdad and U.S. and Britain over the past couple of years.

As we heard from both Jane and Jamie Power -- Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, there have been continued bombings of sites in the no- fly zone by the U.S. and Britain, as Iraq trying to shoot down a U.S. or British plane for the past few years. That never has happened. But now, apparently, the U.S. has struck just south of Baghdad at command-and-communications facilities.

And we will continue to follow the story -- and now here is Lou.

WATERS: As you suggest, Natalie, we are covering the story from many angles, one of them at the Pentagon in these early stages of this report.

Jamie McIntyre is picking up information there and has something new to report -- Jamie.

MCINTYRE: Well, just a little more detail on what we told you before.

As we said, in fact, these were strikes south of Baghdad at parts of Iraq's integrated air defense. And we're told now it not just included command-and-control centers, but also some radars that were outside the no-fly zone, above the 33rd parallel, which is the northern boundary of the no-fly zone, looking south into the no-fly zone.

And, apparently, the United States says that Iraq was using these radars and control centers to get a better picture of the planes flying in the south and had been threatening those planes more effectively over the last six weeks. As a result of that, the United States decided to strike at these targets, which include targets in the no-fly zone and also several targets outside the no-fly zone, using stand-off weapons. The United States says at no time did any of the planes actually cross the 33rd parallel and a enter the airspace right around Baghdad, but again, used stand-off weapons that can be fired from some distance to attack these targets.

It is not clear whether cruise missiles might have been employed as well. We're seek a clarification on that. But it is believed that the aircraft came both from the land and from the aircraft carrier USS Harry Truman, which is on station in the Persian Gulf right now.

Again, the United States says that the provocation here was the continued effort by Iraq to shoot down U.S. and British planes patrolling no-fly zone. The U.S. says this was a coalition strike, that is it involved both the United States and British aircraft, and it used stand-off weapons to hit some of the targets above the 33rd parallel, close to the suburbs of Baghdad during this raid, which happened just between about 12:30 and 1:00 Eastern Standard Time here in Washington, of course, after nightfall in Iraq.

So that's really the latest at this point. The U.S. will provide a full briefing by one of the members of the joint staff, probably the operations director, here at the Pentagon at 2:30 Eastern time, and of course, we'll be carrying that live -- Lou.

WATERS: Yes, and Jamie, we're seeing this videotape here of the event, and we're not seeing the sky lit up, as we're used to seeing, as we were used to seeing during the Persian Gulf War, but we understand the sound of antiaircraft fire was heard at the time of the attack by U.S. planes. Do we know if British also were involved, or was this a U.S.-only operation?

MCINTYRE: Well, the Pentagon says this was a coalition strike, that is it did involve both the United States and British planes. The U.S. and Great Britain are the only two countries still patrolling the no-fly zones; it's a coalition of two at the moment.

And they continue to be threatened, on a daily basis, by Iraqi antiaircraft gunners and missiles that -- because Iraq, as I said, after Operation Desert Strike, in 1998, no longer accepts that the United States has the right to enforce these no-fly zones. In fact, Saddam Hussein, at various times, has put a bounty on the head of U.S. or allied pilots, saying he would pay some of his military personnel a bounty of up to $20,000, if they were able to shoot down a U.S. plane.

So the United States, although it's had an incredible record of patrolling this no-fly zone for over nine years, in the past two years in an active combat situation, still hasn't lost a single aircraft, not only to being shot down, but to even having one be lost because of mechanical malfunction. But it has been -- increasing worry over the last several weeks, as the United States began to see what seemed to be an increasingly sophisticated effort in the south to target those planes; Iraq seemed to have a better idea of where the planes were, and they concluded that that was in part because of these radars that were outside the no-fly zone, but looking south and providing the air defenses with a better picture where the U.S. planes were.

And so because of the continuing effort to make sure that those planes are not threatened, following standard procedure, the United States has taken out those targets. And again, this is not unusual, in the sense that these strikes -- although perhaps you haven't heard much about them because of all the other news, and they become somewhat routine -- but these strikes happen every couple of days in the southern and northern no-fly zones. But they have become so routine, they're not routinely reported.

What makes this one unusual is that it crossed over the no-fly zone, hit very close to Baghdad -- the suburbs of Baghdad -- and again, the Pentagon will be providing more details about their justification for this strike and exactly what happened operationally in just a short time.

WATERS: Yes, I think you probably answered this question in part with your report on the bounty on U.S. pilots or coalition pilots and their planes, but what would be the practical intent of beefing up their air defenses, on the part of Iraq? What would they hope to accomplish, other than inviting an attack by the allies?

MCINTYRE: Well, this has been a strategy that's been employed by Saddam Hussein, again, since the end of Desert Strike, in a sense trying to engage in a war of attrition with the United States. It tried to erode international support for the sanctions and for the enforcement of this no-fly zone. And the enforcement of this no-fly zone is one of several sanctions, including a maritime blockade, an oil -- I mean, a maritime interdiction effort -- restrictions on oil imports, all of these designed to keep Saddam Hussein hemmed in.

And he's just been trying to erode that by -- and this has been his strategy. It's been not a strategy that the United States sees that there's a lot of return in, but nevertheless, it has been his strategy.

And there's a recognition that U.S. pilots patrolling those no- fly zones are essentially going into a combat zone every time they go up.

And so one of the amazing things is is that Iraq has still been able to maintain its air defenses after day after day of bombardment -- you know, several years now of bombardment by the U.S. and Great Britain every couple of days taking out some new radar or gun site.

WATERS: And we're paying close attention today.

Jamie McIntyre, at the Pentagon, will continue to develop elements of this story of the U.S. air strike on command control and communication facilities south of Baghdad, outside the no-fly zone. Air-raid sirens heard over Baghdad, marshal music played on state-run television, and we're continuing to following events -- Natalie.

ALLEN: As Jamie reported, we should hear from the Pentagon this afternoon, probably in just over 30 minutes, so they can tell us more about why this happened in Baghdad tonight.

We're going to hear now from CNN's John King, who's traveling with President Bush in Leon, Mexico.

John, has there been reaction or any kind of statement from the Bush administration?

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, no statement or reaction from the president as yet. Officials on the ground in Mexico here with President Bush at the time being -- referring all questions back to Washington. President Bush will have a news conference, though, later this afternoon, with the Mexican president, Vincente Fox.

And senior administration officials back in Washington telling CNN that the president's nation security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, was immediately informed of this strike.

As Jamie McIntyre reports, the Pentagon will cast this as routine enforcement of those no-fly zones -- but of course, this is the first time that this has happened during the new Bush administration. Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, we are told by these sources, immediately informed the president of this, on hand here with President Bush, for his meetings with Mexican President Fox as well as Secretary of State Colin Powell. Of course, he was the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the top commander during the Gulf War during the prior Bush administration.

Again, no public comment as yet. But do we know from these senior officials back in Washington, a great deal of sensitivity to this issue because it comes, of course, on first trip outside of the United States by this new president, White House officials back in Washington, we're told, urging the Pentagon to get out with that public briefing as soon as possible. They're hoping it does not dominate the discussion here during President Bush's news conference later this afternoon.

But he was immediately informed of these strikes and we're told additional information being relayed as it comes into the Pentagon through his national security adviser, again, Condoleezza Rice -- Natalie.

ALLEN: We know Iraq has wanted these sanctions lifted for some time. It's been two or three years that it stopped adhering to the no-fly zone. What has been the word from the Bush administration on how it would deal with the Iraqi situation, once it began this past January?

KING: The Bush administration's line has been very similar to Clinton administration's line in this regard: that there will be, in the view of the United States government anyway, no lifting of the sanctions until more can be done to certify that Saddam Hussein has dismantled his weapons of mass destruction, that he is keeping in line with other sanctions, imposed after the Gulf War.

That would be a challenge, of course, for the new administration in United Nations, but Secretary Powell has made clear that he favors a continued enforcement of the sanctions and a continued use of those U.S. pilots and other allied pilots to enforce the no-fly zones.

And again, we're told the message from the Pentagon will be that this was a routine enforcement of those post-Gulf War no-fly zones, but obviously bit of extra attention here because of the reaction in Baghdad and because it is the first time this has happened, at least to our knowledge, during the Bush administration.

ALLEN: Right, thank you. John King, traveling with the president in Mexico.

As John just reported, the president, as we've told you, is holding a news conference with the president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, at 3:40 p.m. Eastern today. We'll wait and see if he has comments about this strike against these installations just south of Baghdad, when that occurs. We'll keep in close contact with John King on that front.

WATERS: The world first heard about all of this, of course, from our correspondent in Baghdad, Jane Arraf, who's on the line with us now.

Jane, what's new -- is it quiet there now?

ARRAF: Lou, it's relatively quiet, but it's the quiet that always follows any sort of attack here. When the air-raid sirens sounded, just about an hour ago, people visibly started, but they were told that it was a test. It obviously was not a test because, about 10 minutes later, explosions were -- and I heard a loud explosion on one end of town. On the other end of town, similar explosions heard, as well as the sound of antiaircraft fire.

Driving through the streets, the traffic was normal, but there were certainly more security forces in force.

And switching on the radio, it was military music, a sign that a military, some sort of military aggression, is under way. We're waiting to hear for a statement from the Iraqi government on their view on what has happened. Nothing yet so far, and they are preventing us and all other networks from going live on air and from taking any kind of pictures. They're clearly assessing their reaction and what they want to say -- Lou.

WATERS: Do you know who in the Iraqi government we expect to hear from?

ARRAF: We would expect to hear from the Ministry of Information, which coordinates with the military and releases whatever information it wants to release. Usually, in terms of military matters, the information is very sparse. It will probably not tell us where the attack took place. It will probably not tell us what was hit until much later.

It is clear that this is a very extraordinary attack since it took place, as Jamie mentioned earlier, outside the no-fly zone -- rather, inside the no-fly zone, although the attack was launched from just outside. And it took place in the evening, on a Friday night when the streets were crowded in Baghdad.

Again, the explosions loud enough to be heard in the city, although the targets appear to be just outside -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Jane Arraf in Baghdad, keeping pace with developments there.

And as she mentioned, there will be an official government statement from Iraq. Could happen at any time, but it will not be allowed to be broadcast live, so we will have to pick up what we can from Jane Arraf on that.

Jamie McIntyre is over at the Pentagon.

Jamie, these government statements from Iraq certainly not for domestic consumption. Is there some reverberation within the Arab world that the Iraqis would like to spread based upon a U.S. or an allied attack on one of their facilities? Is there some propaganda? Is there some story to be told that would benefit the Iraqis, in their estimation?

MCINTYRE: Well, that has been Iraq's strategy and Saddam Hussein's strategy in recent years, which is to, again, try to divide the coalition, weaken support, appeal to his Arab neighbors about the plight of the Iraqi people, portray the sanctions as unfair and illegal, portray the no-fly zones as illegal and improper, encourage people to defy the sanctions, to fly humanitarian flights into Baghdad. That's been his strategy all along. And the targeting -- the continued targeting and firing at U.S. and British planes patrolling the no-fly zones has just been a part of that policy.

Again, the United States says that this is not a change in their policy, this is the same kind of enforcement that they have been embarked on in the last two years since Operation Desert Fox. I think earlier I incorrectly said Operation Desert Strike.

But that has been the standard rules of engagement for the United States in patrolling these no-fly zones ever since Iraq began to challenge them right after that four-day operation back in December.

So the U.S. says that this -- the idea that these strikes took place above the 33rd Parallel, which is the northern boundary of that no-fly zone, in no way changes the strategy, which was never limited to striking just in the no-fly zones.

The U.S. position is it is going to enforce these no-fly zones, it has a right to do that without its pilots being threatened. If there's anything that threatens the pilots, whether they're missiles inside or outside the no-fly zone, the U.S. reserves the right to strike those; and, in fact, not just weapons systems that threaten planes in the air, but also reserves the right to strike any weapons systems that might threaten ships at sea. Earlier, the United States struck anti-ship missiles that seemed to be positioned around Basra.

Again, this strike took place using aircraft that were in the region, including F-15s that were flying from bases in Saudi Arabia and perhaps Kuwait; including F-16s that have special radar-jamming capability and anti-radar missiles; and F-18s from the carrier Harry S. Truman, which is in the Persian Gulf right now.

So this was a coordinated air strike. It was at targets not just north of the 33rd, but also within the no-fly zone. And the U.S. says that this was a matter of routine enforcement, the same as the strikes that they've been conducting every couple of days over the past two years since Iraq has made a deliberate campaign out of trying to shoot down a U.S. or British plane.

And, again, I should mention that this strike today did involve both the United States and British strike aircraft.

WATERS: Now, I notice a bit of confusion out of Baghdad, too, about the 33rd Parallel and what's inside and what's outside the no- fly zone. If you could -- if we could put up our map again, the 33rd Parallel you're talking about delineates the no-fly zone to the south, and what was struck to the north of that, as I understand it. The facilities were south of Baghdad. But if, as you say, the allies reserve the right to strike at any of those facilities that threaten those no-fly zone missions, why would they be sensitive to remaining in the no-fly zone and using what you report are "standoff weapons"? Why not just fly across that line? What's to prevent the allies from doing that?

MCINTYRE: Well, because the -- if you flew above the 33rd Parallel, you would be flying into the teeth of the Iraqi air defenses. That's where they have the heaviest air defenses. And so it's not that the United States says it's not going to ever have a plane pass the 33rd Parallel, it's that because in order to take out these targets, they'd have to fly into the area of heaviest air defense. They chose to use these standoff weapons.

And these are becoming the weapon of choice because they provide a much greater range of safety for U.S. pilots, and also a greater degree of accuracy.

I mentioned the AGM-130, which is a video-guided bomb. There's also the JDAM, or Joint Direct Attack Munition, which was used to great effect in the bombing of Kosovo by -- Yugoslavia by NATO. These bombs can be directed by satellite and dropped from, say, a U.S. Air Force F-15 or other strike aircraft that can carry these kind of munitions.

So the combination of precision, sometimes satellite-guided, sometimes radar -- sometime even visually guided using global positioning satellites, and the advantage of being able to be back away from the targets so that U.S. pilots aren't threatened is what makes these the weapon of choice.

And, again, this was all about, the United States says, protecting its pilots that have been -- really had a remarkable string enforcing the no-fly zone. Over these nine, 10 years since the Persian Gulf War, they have been -- there has not been a single U.S. plane lost over these no-fly zones either because of mechanical malfunction or because they were in any way shot down by hostile fire. And that's just an incredible combat record, especially the last two years when Iraq has been making a very active effort to shoot down those planes.

WATERS: All right, our man at the Pentagon, Jamie McIntyre. The Pentagon is where we're expecting a briefing shortly, where we'll get some more information about the allied air strike on those facilities south of Baghdad not too long ago.

Natalie, what's next.

ALLEN: We have on the line with us now, Lou, to talk more about this, Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force.

Lieutenant General, we thank you for talking with us. We know you've been listening to what's happened in Baghdad tonight and to Jamie McIntyre spell it out for us what has been the situation between Baghdad and the U.S. and British planes there for the past few years. What is your take on why this strike just south of Baghdad now?

LT. GEN. TOM MCINERNEY (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: Natalie, it's clearly because Saddam Hussein has been escalating over the last two years in a rather gradual way. This is the new administration, the Bush administration's response to that. We're not going to tolerate it. We're not going to tolerate you trying to shoot down American airplanes even though we've been so successful.

So, he's going to move up the marker, start hitting their very high-value command and control operations and setups, which, frankly, if he continues it and we do that, it's going to make him much weaker to do any other operations in the Middle East, particularly during this perilous time.

ALLEN: We heard from Jamie McIntyre that it seems that Iraq had perhaps better equipment, more sophisticated technology that they had -- that the U.S. had begun to think that Iraq knew where its planes were. What does the U.S. know of the technology that Saddam Hussein has now against U.S. and British warplanes?

MCINERNEY: We've got a very good feel of his technology. And we can tell when he's using different techniques to locate us. And that's one of the reasons why we've gone against his more important command and control networks which are controlling this new technology. And so we're trying to nip at the source, Natalie.

And also, you know, we didn't use our most sophisticated airplanes over there, the Stealth, the B2s, which is by far our most capable and sophisticated airplane, along with the 117s. We used non- stealth assets. And as Jamie mentioned, we used standoff weapons, AGM-130s, and JDAMs. But we still have very formidable resources if he wants to continue to escalate. And I think that's what the Bush administration is doing.

ALLEN: Any idea whether the bombings there south of Baghdad tonight would take out -- would be designed to take out these facilities, or just send a warning to Saddam Hussein?

MCINERNEY: I don't have a direct correlation to that. I'll be very candid with you: I suspect, though, it is directly against those resources, and the administration probably wouldn't say that, but Saddam Hussein will know it. So I think that's why those sites and, speculation in my part, why they were chosen.

ALLEN: And the fact, Lieutenant General, that no U.S. or British planes have been shot down in the past few years even though they are repeatedly fired at by Iraqis according to Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, to what do you contribute that success rate?

MCINERNEY: Well, No. 1, it's extraordinary airmanship and tactics. No. 2, it's an incredible amount of luck. You know, flying that many sorties -- and it's well over 7,000 a year, I think, and not losing an airplane even to a maintenance problem in the area is really extraordinary. But we have extraordinary air crews, even though they have been overextended and using F-15s, and these airplanes which, frankly, are getting very old and need to be modernized.

But it is a tribute to extraordinary airmen on both the U.S. and the Royal Air Force.

ALLEN: Lieutenant General Tom McInerney, thanks you for talking with us.

And here's Lou.

WATERS: And we have on the line the former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger.

Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us. You may have heard General McInerney suggesting that this attack on these command control and communications facilities was a tough signal from the new Bush administration. Would you read it that way?

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Oh, yes, very much so; and I would say it's more than about time. I'm glad that the Bush administration has made it very clear in this one act that they're not going to tolerate all of the nonsense that the previous administration took from Saddam. I hope they keep it up.

WATERS: By "more than about time," you're suggesting the previous was lax in enforcing the post-war agreements?

EAGLEBURGER: Much more relaxed than they should have been. On the questions of inspection, time after time the -- Saddam would deny access, for example, to inspections after having agreed to the whole process at the end of the war. We should have called him on those things then; and now I'm glad we're at least doing it now. And I think what it does mean is -- I suspect it means a much tougher approach from the Bush administration than the previous administration.

WATERS: So you believe that Saddam Hussein has been testing the edges for quite some time, and now he's been made aware, in no uncertain terms, that he's not going to get away with it?

EAGLEBURGER: Yes, I don't know whether he will have learned the lesson today; he seems to have avoided learning lessons about this in the past. But, certainly, he had his fingers rapped; and the real question is whether the new administration will keep it up, and I think they will.

WATERS: Is there anything other about the timing of this, other than a new administration? We know in recent months that Saddam Hussein has again been threatening Israel, promising to strike whenever he found the opportunity. Is that a factor here? An element of this?

EAGLEBURGER: I -- you know, it may well be. I can't think, at the moment, what it would be. I think, more than anything else, it's just a question of the timing is fortuitous. I don't it relates to anything else.

WATERS: Now, when you say you hope the Bush administration keeps it up, what would you hope to see the new administration do, as far as bringing this rogue regime to heel?

EAGLEBURGER: Well, I think they already -- see, this is where I -- there's a problem, I think, in understanding. I think the rogue regime is already to heel. We may be irritated at some of the things that Saddam has done in the last years -- ignoring some of the peace treaty agreements, for example.

But the fact of the matter is he has not been a threat to the region, and largely because he's boxed in by the allies. And so I don't think he's a threat. But what I do think is important is that he'd be reminded, as he has not been for some time, that it is not cost-free to ignore agreements already made in terms of our ability to police or their ability to stay out of no-fly zones and so forth. I think is just a question of reminding him he's made some commitments he'd better live with.

WATERS: But were we not led to believe that Saddam Hussein and his regime was an extreme danger to the world because of the weapons of mass destruction, supposedly, that were being developments, and when -- developed, and when this inspectors were pulled out of there, the concern level began to rise?

EAGLEBURGER: Well, you're absolutely correct, but so am I, if that's possible...

WATERS: That's good.

EAGLEBURGER: ... in the sense that he has not been able to -- while he's been able to ignore us on some of the agreements he should have been following internally, he has not been able to create a threat to the region.

Now, having said that, we have a perfectly legitimate right, as you've indicated, to be very concerned about the fact that over time he may be able to build one of these nuclear weapons, because we haven't been able to be in there to be -- to inspect them. So, again, my point would be in the short run, at least, I don't think this does much to change Saddam's circumstances.

In the longer run, I think it is a very clear signal that things had better change, or else.

WATERS: And reverberations within the Arab world -- would this be a distraction to any opportunities for pursuing peace by the new administration in the Middle East?

EAGLEBURGER: Well, you know, you've also got a good point. If I believed that there were any opportunity, I'd be even more concerned. I don't think there's much chance that the peace process is going to get back to work in any serious way for some time to come yet.

But, that having been said, I don't think it distracts attention, but it will do, certainly, however, I think, is raise the physical level of tension in the region. Not just in and around Israel, but throughout the region as a whole.

WATERS: All right, Mr. Secretary; are you feeling all right?

EAGLEBURGER: Yes, I may live.

WATERS: OK, that's good.

EAGLEBURGER: OK.

WATERS: We love to hear from you, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger.

Thank you.

WATERS: Natalie.

ALLEN: Now we're going to hear from CNN's Richard Roth, who's our man at the U.N. -- see if there has been reaction there -- Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No real reaction yet, Natalie. Of course, ambassadors and diplomats, in a way, have gotten quite used to the confrontations in the skies over Iraq in the decade, now, since the Gulf War.

But, one point to note, that the strike occurred about 10 days before Iraq was to come to New York, to the United Nation for talks with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. These would be the most significant meetings between Iraq and the United Nations in years. And it was the government of Iraq which asked the United Nations, last year, for these talks. Just the other day the U.N. spokesman noted that Iraq was thinking, perhaps, of providing an agenda a few months ago, but none has been forthcoming.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, military chief for the U.S. during the Gulf War was at the U.N. just two days ago. On Wednesday he met privately with Secretary General Annan; and later I asked Secretary Powell whether Washington was going to give Annan, the Secretary General, any guidelines for the talks with the Iraqis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think talks can always be useful. It would be presumptuous of me to suggest to the Secretary General what he might or might not talk about. I think what is clear is that there are U.N. resolutions in effect; U.N. resolutions that bind Iraq and have been telling the Iraqi regime for the last 10 years what they have to do is to get rid of the weapons of mass destruction we that know they have been developing and have had over the years.

We believe it is necessary for peace in the region, and to protect the children of the region, to protect the citizens of the region, for Saddam Hussein and his associates to come forward and then to allow inspectors in so that they can verify that these weapons are no longer there that they claim are no longer there. And so I'm sure this will be a subject that the Secretary General will discuss with the Iraqi representatives.

The United States, at the same time, under President Bush's leadership, we are reviewing our policy in the region both with respect to our responsibilities as a member of the United Nation as well as our individual policies with respect to Iraq. So I hope that the Iraqi representative comes with new information that will show their willingness and desire to comply with the U.N. resolutions and become a progressive member of the world community again.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) secretary, is the United States policy now, under the new administration, guided exclusively by the resolutions of the United Nations, and can you explain what the streamline sanctioned that were being referred to under the so-called doctrine -- Powell Doctrine?

POWELL: Yes; the Powell Doctrine, as you said, thank you very much.

With respect to U.S. policy, when it comes to our role as a member of the security council, we obviously are bound by the U.N. resolutions, and we're not trying to modify those, we're trying to find ways to make sure that the will of the international community is met by the Iraqi leadership. And so we are constantly looking at ways to make it possible for us to be assured that there are no weapons of mass destruction and there are programs underway that would produce weapons of mass construction.

At the same time, do it in a way that does not hurt the Iraqi people. We have sympathy for the people of Iraq; we have sympathy for the children of Iraq. We see a regime that has more than enough money to deal with the problems that exist in that society, if only they would use that money properly; if they would see that all of the people of Iraq are benefiting from the money that they have -- more money than they had 10 years ago.

And so that is our goal: to make sure that Iraq complies with the arms control agreements it entered into, and let's move on beyond this. And the burden of this is in Baghdad. The initiative should be in Baghdad for them to do what is required and what is right.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: You were just about to visit the Middle East...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROTH: Now, Secretary Powell also met with the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the four others besides the United States. And it is inside that group -- the big five that sit on the Council: China, Russia, Great Britain, France -- that the problems regarding Iraq policy have existed now for years. There's been a split, with France normally siding with Russia and China, and the dispute really centers on sanctions. All of them say that they want the Security Council resolutions to be administered and lived up to by the Baghdad government, but nations such as China and Russia say the people of Iraq are being hurt by the sanctions that have been imposed for the last 10 years. That's where the split has been.

One diplomat said, we're waiting for new Bush administration to outline a policy, but the sense from diplomats is we can't expect the cooperation of the Iraqi government without clarifications -- what is the strategy? British Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock, after meeting with Colin Powell, said we're all agreement on many aspects, but how do we get there? That is the question.

That's it for the moment in New York. Back to you, Natalie and Lou.

ALLEN: So the word on how to resolve the split, then, Richard has just been an ongoing process?

ROTH: Well that -- it's been there, and it's been there for five or six years and the sanctions are crumbling. Over the last few months and years, various nations are flying in; passenger jets, cargo, possibly unchecked, passenger list uncertain. And earlier in the '90s the Sanctions Committee of the Security Council would have to approve every flight.

Little by little, Iraq has may inroads in the so-called coalition against Baghdad. These talks that are supposed to be held on the 26th and 27th of February gave some diplomats some hope that perhaps there might be something new, but a lot of other diplomats at the U.N. were saying, this is nothing new, we'd be very skeptical.

I talked to Hans Blix, the leader of the weapons inspectors who are not in Baghdad or Iraq now. He says he's ready to go, if asked to go in, but the Iraqi government has not given approval yet. He's got about 120 new inspectors that have been trained, and a lot of other training is still going on. He says it might be a bit of an improvised mission to go in right now, but he expects they'd have time to get up to speed.

The agency formerly known as UNSCOM has changed its initials; the problems with Iraq still exist -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Richard Roth at the U.N., thanks Richard.

We want to remind our viewers that we're expecting to hear from the Pentagon in just about seven minutes now to give us the details about this U.S. and British attack there on the south of Baghdad. It's about 10:30 at night there in Baghdad; it happened just a little over an hour ago.

Now to Lou.

WATERS: And we also are going to check in now with the State Department, where one of our CNN producers there, Elise Labott, has some information to spread on this story of air strikes against command, control and communications facilities south of Baghdad by warplanes of the United States and British government.

Elise, what do you got?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT PRODUCER: Lou, State Department officials are currently meeting with members of the Iraqi opposition, the Iraqi National Congress including the most recognizable figure in the opposition, INC leader Ahmed Chalabi. According to an aide to Chalabi, he got a call this morning from Assistant Secretary of State for Near-East Affairs Edward Walker, who asked him to come into the State Department as soon as possible. He didn't say a reason for the meeting.

Now, the INC met this week with members of the Iraqi opposition on Tuesday to discuss their plans for operating inside Iraq. They were told further discussions were needed before the U.S. could sign off on $29 million of aid promised to them. They're still waiting for some aid from last year and another $25 million from this year.

INC officials tell CNN they're frustrated with the hold-up of the money, which is hampering its plans to start broadcasting inside the country, collecting intelligence on Saddam Hussein and his military, investigating war crimes against Saddam and distributing humanitarian aid. INC officials tell CNN they're in daily contact with the Bush administration at the State Department and at the Pentagon.

It's worth noting that the INC has been pressing for a review of U.S. military engagement policy with Iraq. They've been looking for the U.S. to consider striking inside the no-fly zones, as well as more military training for members of the opposition in an effort to encourage members of Saddam Hussein's army to join on.

The Clinton administration had been very reluctant to do that, and it's unclear at this point how seriously the Bush administration is going to treat the opposition. But the INC says they're very encouraged by the new administration, which has already suggested it's ready to take a harder line with Saddam Hussein, and that it's interested in working closely with the INC.

According to one INC official who just spoke to CNN, they said they told us -- the U.S. told the INC there are two aspects to U.S. policy: to remove Saddam Hussein and remove weapons of mass destruction. And the U.S. says all of their programs inside Iraq are working in that direction; and, Lou, obviously this meeting here at the State Department signals that the INC, the opposition, is being briefed on what's going on.

WATERS: OK; Elise Labott, as we continue to find out all that's going on associated with the air strike from the no-fly zone into the lower reaches of Baghdad against some command and control facilities which the allied forces in Iraq considered a major threat to their missions in the no-fly zone. And there were air strikes today. Those facilities were knocked out.

State-run television is playing martial music now; we understand the television also is broadcasting an image of a wounded Iraqi soldier, which is usual in these circumstances for state-run television to run pictures of wounded civilians, although the mission from the no-fly zone is not to strike civilians but command and control facilities, as was the case today.

And we're continuing to collect information on that, follow the story. We're expecting a Pentagon briefing shortly to fill us in on what's been happening this day, and Natalie has more.

ALLEN: And the last time Baghdad sirens wailed was February 24, 1999, when U.S. aircraft attacked targets on the outskirts of the capital. And we've learned that the allied planes today flew from various locations in the Persian Gulf but, as Lou said, we'll hear more from the Pentagon in a moment.

President Bush, as you know, is in Mexico today. A one-day trip there.

And CNN John King was traveling with him; he has more information for us now -- John.

KING: Well Natalie, we know President Bush was quickly briefed. He was at the ranch of the Mexican President Vicente Fox. And we're told the White House quickly relayed word through the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, who was on hand for those meetings. Also on hand, the Secretary of State Colin Powell. Remember, he was the top U.S. military commander during the Persian Gulf War in the previous Bush administration.

We're told by sources back in Washington, senior administration officials, that the president was told this was a routine enforcement of those no-fly zones, the post-Gulf War sanctions and that the president was satisfied with his briefing and went back to his business with the Mexican president.

We're also told, though, the senior administration staff on the ground here in Mexico, huddling now. This was to be a carefully choreographed day -- the new U.S. president taking his first steps on the world stage, trying to do so in a very upbeat and positive way here with a close friend, the Mexican president, a country the president of the United States came to know during his tenure as Texas governor.

Now, of course, they're plotting just how Mr. Bush should answer the questions about Saddam Hussein, about U.S. policy toward Iraq and, specifically, about these allied military strikes when he holds a news conference later today.

So far, though, we're told the president's satisfied with the information he is receiving and he's due for a more detailed briefing after that Pentagon briefing, before he steps out before reporters -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And at what point did he learn about this, John?

KING: We don't have an exact time, Natalie, but we are told by senior officials back in Washington that it went, quote, "very quickly." It would be routine, of course, for the White House situation room to be aware of any ongoing U.S. military activities. The president travels on this trip, not only with his top national security adviser, but also with senior military aides who are in constant communication back with the White House security room. We don't have an exact tick-tock, but we are told word was passed on very quickly to Ms. Rice, who immediately brought it to the president.

ALLEN: John King with the president in Mexico.

We want to point out to our viewers we have several correspondents at different points of the globe covering the story. John's there in Leon, Mexico with the president. Jamie McIntyre's at the Pentagon, where the briefing will begin in a moment. And Jane Arraf is in Baghdad.

And Jane, let's go to you now because you witnessed what happened there tonight and, for those who are just joining us, take us from the start -- what you first heard in Baghdad, that you knew something was up.

ARRAF: It's been a very long time since residents of Baghdad heard what they heard this evening. Very quiet, normal Friday night here; great weather, lots of people out in the streets. Friday is the holiday here.

Just before 9:00, the sound of air-raid sirens in Baghdad. A lot of people didn't believe it and thought it might be a test, but 10 minutes later it was clear it was not a test. I and others heard the sound of a very large explosion. Across the city, some miles away, similar explosions were heard, as well as the sound of antiaircraft fire. There are also pictures of anti-aircraft defenses firing about at those what we now know are U.S. planes.

Again, this is the first time in what's believed to be two years that there have been attacks in Baghdad on the outskirts. Iraqi television has shown pictures of what it says are wounded civilians, wounded in tonight's attacks. It has no comment other than that the attacks were by a U.S. airplane. It gives no details of what was hit or how many civilians or others might have been wounded.

The streets now are calm, but there was military music earlier on television and on radio, indicating that a military incident was taking place. Here at the information ministry in central Baghdad, we are waiting from an official statement from the government, which they say is forthcoming on what exactly happened less than two hours ago -- Natalie.

ALLEN: When was the last time the country heard from or saw Saddam Hussein and do you expect, Jane, that he'll be a part of any announcement about what took place there tonight?

ARRAF: The president himself probably will not be seen personally. Any announcement here, especially one regarding military matters which are very closely held secret, tend to come in the form of written statements. There may be a press conference later on with an Iraqi official, but that generally tends to be much later.

The president has been seen on a regular basis and it's believed by some on a more regular basis to prove again rumors that had been rampant just a few weeks ago that he had been in ill health. Those rumors were disproved.

He actually appeared at military parade a couple of months ago, and for the first time, was introduced to diplomats based in Baghdad. He has a policy of not seeing foreign diplomats who are based here, but they shook his hand, they had their pictures taken and the sign was that he was in good health and this was a message to everyone based here.

Subsequently, after those rumors of ill health intensified, he began appearing on Iraqi television on a more regular basis and frequently appears these days talking about the conflict in the West Bank and Gaza, what he says is a coming greater escalation of the conflict with Israel.

President Saddam Hussein has been very much saying that Iraq is prepared to attack Israel; that it will not stand for what's happening with the Palestinians, and he has once again made himself into a champion of the Palestinians in the Arab world.

Again, the attack tonight unprecedented in the last couple of years. There have been almost daily clashes outside Baghdad, but because these take place in relatively remote areas, they don't really affect the residents here. This one certainly did -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Jane Arraf, you stand by. We'll talk again with you, and we thank you. We want to talk with CNN's Jamie McIntyre, who's at the Pentagon, and he'll have to sit down in just a moment as soon as that briefing begins.

But Jamie, for now, those viewers who might be just tuning into the story might be wondering why an air strike now. South of Baghdad as Jane just mentioned, there have been daily clashes in remote areas over the past couple of years, which you've talked about. Perhaps you can elaborate on that to help our viewers understand why this is south of Baghdad and now?

MCINTYRE: Well, it's a good question why, when the United States and Great Britain have been conducting almost -- strikes almost every other day or every three days, that suddenly a strike today is attracting so much attention, and the reason is that this is the first time since the end of Operation Desert Fox in 1998 that allied warplanes have struck above the 33rd parallel.

That's the northern boundary of the southern no-fly zone in Iraq, although the Pentagon says that none of the planes crossed the 33rd parallel in order to carry out these strikes. They used what's called stand-off weapons that allow the pilots to release their weapons at some distance from the target and provide an extra measure of safety from the pilot.

What this was all about, the Pentagon says, is that U.S. planes and British planes patrolling the no-fly zone in the last six weeks have been increasingly threatened by Iraq's air defenses, which seem to have gotten more sophisticated. And after some surveillance and intelligence analysis, it was determined that one was that a couple of -- that some radars and control centers that were outside the no-fly zone but looking south were giving the Iraqi gunners and missile firers a better picture of what was going on overhead.

The United States has said all along that it is not limited to striking directly at whatever directly threatens it, but it can attack any part of the Iraqi integrated air defense if it's a threat to those allied planes. And so under that policy, the United States today decided to take out some of those radars and command centers, even though they are above the 33rd parallel and very close to the suburbs of Baghdad. That's what's attracted all the attention.

But as I said, it's not an unusual event. Ever since the end of Operation Desert Fox, Iraq has made it clear that it has not accepted the no-fly zones. It claims that they're illegal, that the U.N. resolution that the United States cites as a justification is not, in fact, something that legitimizes those zones and its threatened to try to shoot down any planes flying over Iraqi airspace, and that conflict has been going on, essentially a low-level war, conflict that's been going on for two years now since the end of that operation. This is just another step in that policy of trying to continue to neutralize the Iraqi air defenses and protect the allied pilots.

ALLEN: Jamie, we know we'll be hearing from the Pentagon about more about this and you'll be there on the front row when that briefing begins. We thank you, Jamie McIntyre. Now for more, let's go back to Lou.

WATERS: Yes, and while we wait for that briefing from the Pentagon, of course, as you may know -- excuse me, the president of the United States is in Mexico meeting with the new president, Vicente Fox. CNN's senior White House correspondent John King is with the president and has something new to report on all of this -- John.

KING: That's right, Lou. We are now told by senior administration sources that this air strike was authorized yesterday by President Bush, as Jamie said, and our sources are saying this will be described by the Pentagon as routine enforcement of those no-fly zones in Iraq, this taking place, again, as Jamie has said, just north of the southernmost border of the fly zone.

The planes not actually crossing, but launching those smart weapons. What makes this one interesting, we, of course, waiting for the details from the Pentagon is that we are now told that President Bush authorized this on yesterday. Many of these encounters in the past have been called chance encounters, that is U.S. or other allied planes on enforcement flights over those no-fly zones detect radar coming on and they are authorized then to react immediately.

This one, though, we are told, and again, we have very few details, this strike authorized by the president yesterday. We are told he was quickly briefed when it was carried out here in Mexico as he was having discussions with the Mexican president, Vicente Fox. Word quickly relayed from the White House to the president through his national security adviser and additional details being passed on to the president now as he prepares for a news conference here in Mexico later this afternoon -- Lou.

WATERS: John, we had a former lieutenant general on here suggesting that the timing of this attack is a tough signal from the new Bush administration, something that former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger agreed with, Eagleburger suggesting that the former administration has been lax in enforcing these provisions surrounding the no-fly zone and that this was indeed a signal from the Bush administration. Is there anyone within or around the administration suggesting anything about the timing of this?

KING: Well, the former administration certainly would dispute the notion that it was lax. But the current administration has made clear from day one that it planned on continuing enforcing the no-fly zone and continuing to push to keep diplomatic support up for the sanctions against Saddam Hussein.

Remember, our secretary of state now in the United States is Colin Powell, the top general during the Persian Gulf War. Donald Rumsfeld taking over at the Pentagon and we're told his direction from the White House was to continue the policy of enforcing those no-fly zones.

And certainly a footnote of the history here, this new president, George W. Bush now in his first military confrontation with the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. It was only eight years ago, of course, that Bill Clinton replaced his father, President Bush, who was the architect of the Gulf War strategy.

WATERS: It's also been suggested here this afternoon, John, that this distraction, as it's been called, over Saddam Hussein, and his actions within and outside the no-fly zones may be providing a distraction from whatever opportunities may exist for seeking a Middle East solution from the Bush administration. Is there anywhere expression of concern about pursuing a peace process and how Saddam Hussein might distract from that?

KING: Well, certainly Mr. Hussein, in the view of U.S. officials, has proven to be a constant distraction and not a favorable distraction in their view. The Clinton administration and now the Bush administration say you cannot consider that when you're getting into the actual details of Middle East peace issues, whether they be the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians or the broader issues involving the Syrians or Lebanon and Israel.

But certainly they do believe that from time to time, Saddam Hussein deliberately makes provocative steps, whether they are military steps or remember back just a few months when there was talk about the administration trying to lean on OPEC, this the Clinton administration, to lean on the OPEC cartel to boost oil production, there were a lot of comments coming out of Iraq's oil minister and the Hussein government as well about that situation.

So, certainly it is no secret and no surprise that this administration, just like the Clinton administration and the first Bush administration, certainly are not fans of Saddam Hussein and believe that he deliberately takes provocative steps to undermine U.S. policy in the Middle East.

WATERS: All right, John King with the president in Mexico. We're expecting to hear from the president. John, do you have any timetable when we might hear from him?

KING: That news -- I'm sorry, Lou, that news conference scheduled for a little bit before 4:00, about 3:40 p.m. Eastern time in the United States. Expected to run about an hour, and obviously, the president was hoping to highlight the new relationship with Mexico but as we're told by sources, he authorized this strike yesterday. So, he certainly might have known that there would be a question not only on the strike itself, but on the overall policy and posture towards Saddam Hussein on this, the first trip outside of the United States as president.

WATERS: Perhaps more than one question. John King with the president in Mexico -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Again, this happened a little over an hour and a half ago just south of Baghdad. You've been seeing video on your screen from Baghdad. Of course, it's dark there, but you can see sporadic anti- aircraft fire, if you watch closely, that took place in the skies over Baghdad tonight.

We want to just outline what we've been showing you and we want to bring back Jane Arraf, who's in Baghdad. Jane, we're about to hear from the Pentagon. Presumably, they'll tell us if they believe that this was a success in what they were trying to do, and we know that they were targeting command and communications facilities. Elaborate for us, please, on what usually happens after something like this, as far as does Iraq allow the media to the area to take video? How forthcoming might they be?

ARRAF: Well, they've already taken the step of releasing some video, pictures of what they say are wounded civilians at the attack site. Since it was a military attack, they will not be releasing details quite yet of what the site was, where it was and how heavily it might have been damaged. Even if we knew that on the ground, we would not be able to report that.

When it first started, all the television stations switched from regular programing to military music, and anyone taking pictures outside was told that they had to bring their cameras indoors. We were then told no one could take live pictures. That has been somewhat lifted now, as long as we're not showing the skyline.

But still, there is a security clamp-down. After the air-raid sirens and the subsequent explosions, there was very heavy security in the streets. Traffic was continuing normally since the attacks appeared to be on the outskirts if not just outside Baghdad, but certainly there has been a security crack down in the intervening hour and a half -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Thank you. We're going to take you now to the Pentagon.

REAR ADM. CRAIG QUIGLEY, U.S. NAVY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman.

Earlier this afternoon coalition aircraft struck targets in southern Iraq, and I'm sure that many of you have questions on that. We have with us this afternoon the director for operations of the joint staff. Marine Corps Lieutenant General Greg Newbold will walk you through some of the high points of that and take some of your questions. I will then follow up. He has only about 10 minutes or so here with us, and we will follow up with additional questions as best we can -- General.

LT. GEN. GREGORY NEWBOLD, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Good afternoon. I'm going to use times that relate to Washington, D.C., time, so as I run through this, you can equate to what we've been doing here.

At about 11:20 this morning, military aircraft in the Central Command region conducted an operation over Iraq. By 12:30 Washington, D.C., time, they were over target, and at that time began recovery. And by about 1:40 our time, the aircraft had all cleared Iraqi airspace and were in the process of recovering to their stations.

The military operation was conducted because the Iraqi air defenses had been increasing both their frequency and the sophistication of their operations.

NEWBOLD: Both the frequency and the more sophisticated command and control of their operations are a daily increased threat to our aircraft and our crews. It reached the point where it was obvious to our forces that they had to conduct operations to safeguard those pilots and the aircraft.

As a matter of fact, it essentially is a self-defense measure in conducting the operation.

We struck five command-and-control nodes north of the 33rd parallel with 24 strike aircraft, using stand-off precision munitions. All indications we have are that the munitions and the strikes were conducted efficiently and effectively. We have no indications that there are any of the strikes that might have gone amiss. At no time did any aircraft go north of the 33rd parallel.

And I would also note that all of these targets were picked because of the specific separation that they represented from non- military targets.

NEWBOLD: Of course, the principle reason is that they pose a threat to U.S. aircraft.

On the slide you will see over here is a depiction of the area coverage of these radar sites, and it should be pretty evident that the range of these radars reach deep into the Operation Southern Watch area, and that was the reason that they posed such a threat.

I'm going to show you, next, two examples of these types of radar. Tall King (ph) is the first one. And let's go to the second one. And all of the radars struck, generally have ranges that can reach out extensively, you saw the rings represented on the map, but covered our aircraft not long after they're entered Iraqi airspace on missions on nearly a daily basis.

QUESTION: Are they surveillance only, General? NEWBOLD: Surveillance radar, but what they do is they then allow the Iraqi air defenses to coordinate their activities. And it was obvious to us that on nearly a daily basis they were posing an increased risk.

So in order to continue to accomplish our mission and avoid the loss of aircraft, we had really no choice in this but to conduct the strike.

QUESTION: Had these radars just been established?

NEWBOLD: They've been accumulating over time. Generally, they've tried to use their radars south of the 33rd parallel, but as they do that -- and they use them to oppose our missions and to conduct attacks on our aircraft -- over time, they've lost their ability to do so as we've struck their radars and their air defense systems.

So they've moved into what essentially they believe is a safe haven, north of the 33rd parallel.

QUESTION: How far from Baghdad were those strikes?

NEWBOLD: Generally the systems were between five and 20 miles, but again, I'd like to emphasize that we know precisely where they are located. And each one of them is in the middle of a unoccupied area and were picked for that reason.

QUESTION: Are they any restrictions for U.S. or British planes to remain in the no-fly zone? And is striking outside -- above the 33rd parallel in any way a change of policy or tactics by the United States?

NEWBOLD: The policy issues, you, of course, have to ask a policy-maker. But from a military perspective, it makes eminent sense for us to conduct the missions as far as we can from their missile systems and from their radars. And that's why we did it from the stand-off.

QUESTION: Then why did you make a point of saying that none of the aircraft crossed the 33rd parallel?

NEWBOLD: I think the point in saying that they didn't cross the 33rd parallel is really to indicate the distance from Baghdad, the fact that we are aware of our general zone of operations for these things. In routine operations, they're south of the 33rd.

QUESTION: What kind of resistance did American aircraft encounter during this and can you give us any idea of what British aircraft did in these strikes?

NEWBOLD: The first question, as far as Iraqi attempts to interdict our strikes, we have heard that there were anti-aircraft artillery fired and some surface-to-air missiles which we believe were fired ballistically, which means without the benefit of guidance, which makes it a little safer to those who shoot them. QUESTION: And British aircraft in the strike?

NEWBOLD: Oh, British aircraft cooperated with us in the strike. I prefer not to get into which aircraft struck which targets though.

QUESTION: There's a real important trend that has been going on here. Can you describe the trend of their increasing ability to go after American aircraft? Have there been more missiles fired in January, for example, than there had been in the months before?

NEWBOLD: It's a good question. Yes, is the answer to both of those.

NEWBOLD: In January, and up to this point of time in February, frequency, meaning how many systems fired of a broader range of systems, and on a daily basis, how many times they've fired. And, of course, they were getting closer and closer to our aircraft.

QUESTION: Well, to follow up on that, and then a question, had there been any close misses to the Iraqis being successful in trying to shoot down a U.S. aircraft?

NEWBOLD: No close misses, but the pilots are able to observe either the missile plumes or the bursting of the anti-aircraft fire when they're close enough to the aircraft to see.

QUESTION: And, a follow-up, can you explain to us, was it simply these two radar sites? Or was it only the five targets north of the 33? And was more than just two radars involved? Was there part of the command-and-control system that was hit?

NEWBOLD: If you'll look at the slide, five targets, one of them was south of the 33rd parallel. And of those targets north of the 33rd parallel, they represent a variety of radar systems. But command-and-control nodes, not just radar, that were above the 33rd.

QUESTION: Was this an entirely a CENTCOM-generated mission? Is it something that you all -- or that CENTCOM handled by itself, or was it influenced by the White House? Did the White House ask them?

NEWBOLD: I can tell you with certainty that this was a military operation emanating out of the forces that fly the mission on a daily basis.

NEWBOLD: It was a request from them which came up to us.

QUESTION: Did President Bush sign off on it?

NEWBOLD: Any time we fly a mission like this, it's required to be briefed all the way up through the national command authority.

QUESTION: Sir, you talked about the increased networking of the command-and-control system. Is there also an equivalent in SA-6 activity, both in quantity and sophistication of the missiles themselves that were posing a threat? NEWBOLD: You've asked about a specific system, the SA-6. What I'd prefer to say is that it's generally the range of systems which are both surface-to-air missiles, something like an unguided missile system, and the anti-aircraft artillery.

QUESTION: General, three-part question, if I may.

(LAUGHTER)

NEWBOLD: I'll give you a one-part answer.

QUESTION: OK. First of all, who supplied Iraq with these radars, if you know? Secondly, did you go out to any tactical targets, such as AAA or such as surface-to-air missiles sites, on this particular strike? And third, were any of the command-and-control nodes hardened? Did you have to use any kind of bunker buster or ordnance to take out hardened?

NEWBOLD: I actually don't know the source of the radars, because even though they may be produced by a particular country, they can come from a variety of sources.

I probably won't get into the one on bunker busting. I'd just assume stay away from that one.

NEWBOLD: And your second question?

QUESTION: Do you know if any tactical targets, such as AAA sites, or surface-to-air missile sites, in addition...

NEWBOLD: No.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: I didn't hear the answer.

NEWBOLD: Your question was, were there other tactical targets like surface-to-air missiles, and the answer is no.

QUESTION: General, are you saying this was handled exactly like all of the many fairly routine strikes that have been going on in northern and southern Iraq, in terms of command and control? That the decision was made at the operational level, the operation was carried out, and then it was briefed afterwards back up the chain of command? Is that how these have been handled all along, or is there something special about this one, as opposed to these other strikes that have been going on rather routinely?

NEWBOLD: The first point of clarification is, no decision was made at a tactical level on this strike. The recommendation and the source of the recommendation was at the tactical level, and that's the way it should be.

I would tell you that these strikes like this have occurred since the beginning of Operation Southern Watch and in Northern Watch since 1991. They are not routine, but they're part and parcel to the protecting our aircraft as they conduct the missions, and they do occur occasionally.

QUESTION: General, were any of these sites struck in December '98 in Desert Fox and rebuilt? I mean, do you get any sense that he is rebuilding his command and control and AAA?

NEWBOLD: The precise sites, I can't say. I will tell you that strikes like this were conducted in '98.

NEWBOLD: And I'd have to get back to you on whether these were targets that might have been part and parcel...

QUESTION: Do you anticipate the need for more military strikes? Or do you think you've accomplished all you needed to accomplish with today's actions?

NEWBOLD: We think we've accomplished what we were looking for in this sense to degrade, disrupt the ability of the Iraqi air defenses to coordinate attacks against our aircraft.

But, as you know, this is a cyclic affair.

QUESTION: But it's not likely we'll have more strikes soon?

NEWBOLD: We don't anticipate strikes like this soon. In the course of our daily operations, as you know, we're shot at fairly routinely.

QUESTION: You've talked about increased activity along the 33rd. Are we talking about an increase in numbers of anti-aircraft sites, of surface-to-air missile sites, of radar sites? And if so, is Iraq in the business of acquiring additional armaments, additional capabilities? And why this spike in the last six weeks that we've seen?

Also, it appears, according to your graphic, that one of the sites was north of Baghdad, is that right?

NEWBOLD: Let me start with the first one and make sure I'm clear on this. It was not the number of systems that posed the threat. It was that the systems in place were firing more frequently, and they more accurate because they were coordinated.

NEWBOLD: And there was one target just north of Baghdad as is shown there.

QUESTION: So these sites that were hit were designed to cut down on their ability to coordinate and synchronize their efforts against U.S. and British aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone.

NEWBOLD: I should have had you giving the brief. That's precisely right.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: And do we see the same sort of activity taking place in the north or is this southern-no-fly-zone-specific? NEWBOLD: This one is southern-no-fly-zone-specific although increased activity up north.

QUESTION: General, given the fact that you've noted increasing sophistication in the way that Iraq has been engaging U.S. aircraft, any idea as how the Iraqis developed these new tactics? Are they getting -- taking lessons learned from Kosovo? Are they being briefed by the Serbs who defended against us in Kosovo? Where did these new tactics come from?

NEWBOLD: I don't really -- I can't answer that question because I don't know. But I would tell you that there are exchanges of information. I don't think this is a matter of improved tactics so much as it is improved commanding control.

STAFF: Just one or two more, please ladies and gentlemen.

QUESTION: General, can you be clear on one thing? These were preemptive strikes as opposed to aircraft were painted and the U.S. struck back; is that correct?

NEWBOLD: No, these are in direct response to Iraqi actions over a cumulative period of time over the past two months where their actions have increased -- provided an increasing threat to our aircraft.

QUESTION: How about today, though? Were U.S. planes painted, or this was planned strike?

NEWBOLD: This is a carefully planned, orchestrated strike.

QUESTION: Aren't you concerned, sir, that strikes like this might increase the hostility toward the U.S. and its military presence in the area? And are you taking any additional precautions to avoid that?

NEWBOLD: Yes, the aircraft do that routinely. They change their plan on a daily basis to ensure that they are at minimum risk to the aircraft. And our preference wouldn't -- I can guarantee you, would not be to strike. Our preference is to conduct Southern Watch to monitor Iraqi activities that threaten their neighbors like Kuwait. And it's only in response to the firing at the U.S. and coalition aircraft that they get into responding to those.

STAFF: Thank you, General.

QUESTION: General, one question, because this was different, did you have to get Saudi Arabia's permission?

QUIGLEY: I'll wait just a second here.

Are there any follow-on questions I can possibly help with?

QUESTION: Because the parameters of this strike were slightly different, did you seek or receive Saudi Arabia's permission before you launched this? Did you inform them of it? QUIGLEY: Not that I'm aware of, no.

QUESTION: Had there been a change in threat condition levels in the area?

QUIGLEY: No, not that I'm aware of. Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Were these carrier-based airplanes that carried out the strike?

QUIGLEY: Some were indeed both carried-based and land-based, yes.

QUESTION: Harry S. Truman?

QUIGLEY: Harry S. Truman is a carrier in the Gulf at this point.

QUESTION: And, Craig, this is the type of aircraft, type of weapon? Can you give us any...

QUIGLEY: These were both sea-based and land-based strike aircraft, from a variety of installations in the region, firing long- range, precision-guided weapons. That's the most detail I can provide.

QUESTION: Kinds of stand-off?

QUIGLEY: Different types of stand-off weapons. Yes. But precision-guided, stand-off weapons.

QUESTION: Why can't you just say what they are?

QUIGLEY: Because if the Iraqis now know precisely how effective this strike was, and if they could somehow figure out, knowing the weapon that was fired, how effective this weapon system was, and they could possible devise a way to counter it, it would reduce our possible effectiveness on future such strikes. Any sort of advantage that we could possible provide to the Iraqis in that type, we're just going to try everything can to not do that.

QUESTION: If I can just follow up on that point, why does that rule only seem to apply to strikes in Iraq, but didn't, for instance, apply to the NATO strikes in Yugoslavia, while in 1998 in 1999 you didn't disclose types of weapons in Iraq, but when those same weapons were used in a combat situation in Yugoslavia, you did disclose the weapons? Why is there no consistency in the policy?

QUIGLEY: I think you're looking at a much longer duration effort in Southern Watch and Northern Watch. I have a possibility of deriving some sort of benefit of knowing what type of weapon that the coalition would use against me. I may not be able to devise a way to defeat it or to reduce its effectiveness somehow on the first strike or the third or the fifth. But if it's a long-duration activity, like Southern Watch and Northern Watch, I could get there eventually.

If it's more of a tactical situation, which was the situation in the Balkans, OK, during Kosovo operations, that is much more of a real-time situation where I'm employing weapons you just can't possibly devise a counter to those weapons in the very short time that is available to a defensive system.

But in a longer time horizon here, that is a possibility. We think it's an increased possibility. And we're just not going to take that risk.

QUESTION: Craig, do you have any numbers for us on the increase of SAM firings magnitude, descriptively, over the last couple of months?

QUIGLEY: I think we do. I don't have them with me, but I think we do. But we have seen a significant increase in the January- February time frame. And the systems that were struck today, that General Newbold described, very much contributed to that, we believe. And we hope that we will have significantly degraded his ability to coordinate that air defense system.

QUESTION: Within just two hours of this strike, how is it that you come to the conclusion that the strikes were both effective and efficient? How is that you've concluded your bomb damage assessment so quickly?

QUIGLEY: Well, we don't have the bomb damage assessment. I should be quick to point that out, and we won't for quite some time, and to the level of detail that you would expect. But we do have an immediate indication as to whether or not your stand-off ordnance guided properly or if you lost the signal and it didn't guide properly, so you know if the weapons you used performed as they should.

And as General Newbold described, these targets were chosen very specifically for two principle reasons: one is their effectiveness against coalition aircraft in the southern no-fly zone; and two, their location apart from populated areas. So if I don't have an indication that the weapon somehow malfunctioned, then I really do need to hold off before I'm too specific on my battle damage assessment. But all the initial look says it's looks pretty good.

QUESTION: Do you have any indication that given the targets you strike, those parts of the Iraqi air defense system have gone dark, now?

QUIGLEY: I don't have that level of detail in this close to real time. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Craig, the aircraft engaged in this strike today, were these the tactical aircraft that are normally used in Operation Southern Watch or were there also manned-bombers, some say Europe and CONUS, B-1s, B-2s...

QUIGLEY: No, these were aircraft that you see normally operating in Operation Southern Watch and in that part of the world.

QUESTION: The general said 24 strike aircraft. Are we to assume that the total air package was larger than that, given support -- the level of support aircraft?

QUIGLEY: Yes, yes. I'm not going to be able to be specific about that, either. I will say that there was a considerably larger total package of aircraft, but that provided jamming, electronic countermeasures, suppression of any enemy air defense missions, command and control, those sorts of activities that would support the 24. The 24 were the ones that launched the weapons. There were a larger number of aircraft that performed other missions.

QUESTION: Twenty-four American and British?

QUIGLEY: Twenty-four American and British, yes.

QUESTION: How does that package compare to the ones that are normally used in these strikes? I think there have been nine strikes so far this year, so how did those earlier strikes stack up?

QUIGLEY: This is larger than any of the ones that were earlier this year. They typically are not -- I'd have to go check the numbers, but this is definitely larger than one that you see.

And keep in mind, this is something that we reserve the right to do. It isn't necessarily a tit for tat, OK, in Southern Watch. And this is a perfect example of that.

We assess these systems as being complementary and additive to the air defense capability of the Iraqis in the Southern Watch no-fly zone. So this wasn't something that happened today or yesterday, this was cumulative over a period of time, but it contributed significantly to the effectiveness of those air defense systems. And that's why this was a very deliberate, planned procedure.

QUESTION: Could you clarify the approval?

QUIGLEY: Yes, let me take another crack at that.

CINCCENT started this process, OK? The commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command started this process, made a recommendation up through the chain of command. Ultimately, that recommendation was approved by the president.

QUESTION: Did General Franks make the recommendation?

QUIGLEY: Within the last few days, ultimately by the president. The recommendation has been working its way up the chain of command for some time with the requisite level of detail to make sure that all the seniors in the chain of command understood the details, understood the parameters, understood what was being asked for here. And ultimately, that was approved by the president.

Yes?

QUESTION: And why would this mission have to be signed off on by the president when strikes that occur weekly if not more often are done without the president having to sign-off on it? QUIGLEY: We have said that we would take on targets that would contribute to the effectiveness of the Iraqi air defense system in Southern Watch and Northern Watch. But typically those targets that we engage are in the Southern Watch or Northern Watch zones; in other words, south of 33 or north of 36. This was not. This was different. We've done this before but it is not like we normally do it.

QUESTION: When was the last one...

QUESTION: ... standing authorization to strike targets under the rules of engagement in the southern and northern no-fly zones, but when going north of the southern no-fly zone or south of the northern no-fly zone, that's exceptional enough where it requires presidential authority?

QUIGLEY: Let me try to put that another way, if I could. There are different rules of engagement. The rules of engagement describe a different process, depending on the sort of option that you would like to embark upon. And this was one of those that is a different set of circumstances, rather than the ones that you have seen either Central Command or European Command do on a much more regular basis in Northern Watch or Southern Watch. So in accordance with the rules that we put in place and have been approved up the chain of command on a variety of these packages, this procedure had a different process in accordance with those rules of engagement.

So you say, "What am I about to embark on here? What am I going to ask permission to do? What are the procedures that I have in place to do that?" And then I go about doing it.

The answer to your question is, in Southern Watch, the last time we went north of 33 was Desert Fox in December of '98. The last time we went south of 36 was September or October of '99. So it has been done before, but it's been a while.

QUESTION: If this has been going on for six weeks, this change of pace of Iraqi activity, what made you decide to go today? Why did you wait so long? And did you want to get this done especially before the secretary of state travelled to the Gulf?

QUIGLEY: I'm not going to get into the tactical reasons. There is a variety of factors that go into the selection of exactly what time you do this and date and things of that sort. But, I'm sorry, I can't provide those.

I need to leave. Let me take one more question.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: To what extent was this a message sent by a new president to indicate that no policy change, no softening in U.S. attitude towards Saddam?

QUIGLEY: This was done for the military purposes that General Newbold described.

Thank you.

ALLEN: Word from the Pentagon this afternoon on the air strikes that have taken place just outside of Baghdad. As we've learned today, air strikes have been going on for a couple years between the U.S. and British airplanes and Iraqis in the no-fly zones. This is getting particular attention today because this is the first time since February 1999 that there have been air strikes just outside the city limits of Baghdad.

We learned that the entire operation too 2 hours and 20 minutes. At 1:40 Eastern, aircraft had cleared Iraqi airspace. This happened at about 9:00 p.m in Baghdad. It is just after 11:00 there now.

The reasons, according to the Pentagon, Iraq has been increasing its frequency and sophistication of defense operations. The U.S. military operating in that area believe this caused a heightened threat to U.S. and British pilots. No U.S. plane had been shot down in the past couple of years, but apparently the threat, the U.S. military believed, was increasing that that could happen.

There were five targets, command and control targets to the north and south of Baghdad anywhere from five to 20 miles from Baghdad and the Pentagon telling us that these targets were picked because they were in unoccupied area. Stand-off weapons were used, and the operation was carried out effectively, according to the Pentagon.

Let's talk with CNN's Jamie McIntyre, who was there. Jamie, what you can tell us what stood out from the Pentagon's report this afternoon?

MCINTYRE: Well, one key point that the Pentagon kept trying to come back to was that although this was a coordinated attack, although it was unusual in its intensity and it was unusual in the fact that it took place above the 33rd parallel and, in fact, required presidential approval, and John King at the White House reporting -- our White House correspondent reporting that President Bush signed off on this yesterday, the Pentagon still insists that a), this was not a change of policy, and that, in fact, this strike was in self-defense.

That is it was not a preemptive strike, but it was in self- defense in reaction to an increasing number of missiles and anti- aircraft guns that were fired at U.S. and British planes patrolling the no-fly zones over the last six weeks.

The other point the Pentagon, I think, tried to underscore was that this was not an intention to send some new message to Saddam Hussein, not perhaps a reflection of a new attitude under the Bush administration, but something that grew out of the concern of commanders on the front lines who were getting reports back from the pilots that some of the situation out there was getting too close for comfort, that some of the missiles were getting too intense, near the planes that were patrolling, too many close calls and that they needed to do something about it.

And that recommendation made by the U.S. Central Commander, and up through the chain of command. It require President Bush to sign off on it, but the Pentagon stresses that this is not a change in their tactic. They would prefer not to be -- to simply be peacefully patrolling the no-fly zones, but they say this strike is again in reaction to what has been two years of challenges to the enforcement by Iraq and in the last six weeks, an increasing number of missiles and guns fired at U.S. and British planes, particularly in the south.

And so they felt they had to take out these radars and command centers, which were giving those gunners a much better picture of exactly where the allied planes were, and increasing the threat to those pilots.

ALLEN: And Jamie, General Newbold pointed out that these were stand-off weapons. They would not give specifics about the weaponry, but how much of a distance was there possibly between the aircraft used -- we have F-15s, F-16s and F-18s used in this operation. How much distance between the airplanes and the targets?

MCINTYRE: Well, there could have been -- we can see that there is quite a bit of distance. If you just look -- they told us, for instance, that none of the planes crossed the 33rd parallel, which is the northern boundary of the southern no-fly zone, yet some of the targets were north of Baghdad.

So, we know that they could be five, 10, 15, 25 miles away. That means that there were a number of systems that could have been used, even though they didn't identify them, such as the AGM-130, a bomb that essentially has a rocket engine on it and a visual sensor that allows the is say the pilot back seat of an F-15 to deliver that very accurately at great distance away, thereby protecting the pilot.

Navy F-18s flying off the carrier Harry S. Truman would likely have been equipped with SLAM, stand-off land attack missiles, that again have a range of a couple hundred miles away that they can fire. They could have also used the joint direct attack munition, which is a satellite-guided bomb. Very accurate, guided by global positioning satellites and has fins on it so it can be directed from some distance away.

But they would have selected for each one of these targets the weapon that's most appropriate. They claim they simply don't want to identify those weapons so as not to give any possible advantage to Iraq, but frankly, there's only a limited number of systems that can be used and those weapons and their capabilities are fairly well- known.

They were demonstrated during the war in Yugoslavia and we've seen pictures and the gun-camera video from those weapons as well. So, these tactics are well-known to Iraq, but this operation was carried out without the loss of any aircraft. Twenty-four strike aircraft altogether, some from the carrier Harry Truman, some from the ground in Saudi Arabia or perhaps Kuwait.

ALLEN: And the Pentagon not saying yet whether these targets were destroyed, but saying that the operation was carried out effectively. We thank you, Jamie McIntyre at the pentagon. We have correspondents on this story around the world and for more now, we go over to Lou Waters.

WATERS: We want to first check in with the president of the United States. He's expected to meet with reporters down in Mexico. He's out of the country today, but as has been reported, he had to authorize the strike. We have heard from his spokesman, Ari Fleischer, within the past little and we're going to show you now what Ari Fleischer had to say about all of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Since 1991, coalition aircraft have been enforcing the no-fly zone in Iraq. Today, allied armed forces conducted a routine strike associated with enforcement of the no-fly zone. Coalition aircraft struck targets that were instrumental in providing air defenses that threaten coalition aircraft that were on patrol in the southern no-fly zone. The president authorized the strike because of the risk posed to our aircraft. All coalition aircraft were returned safely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATERS: Special circumstances, a particularly intense strike that different from all others preceding it, made the presidential authorization necessary, but as we've been also reporting, this was a coalition effort. British planes taking part in the air strike today, and we have our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour joining us from London now. Christiane, I don't know to what extent you know the British were involved in this, but was Tony Blair also part of the authorization process?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're been told here by Downing Street spokesman is that certainly Tony Blair, the prime minister, has been kept apprised of what's going on. He's at Checkers right now, which is the prime ministerial weekend retreat, monitoring the situation.

But we were told here that it was the minister of defense, Geoffrey Hoon, who signed off and authorized this attack. It had been discussed earlier this week in the Defense Ministry here, and it was Geoffrey Hoons, the minister, who had been in consultation with Washington and not Prime Minister Blair talking to President Bush. So in terms of that kind of authorization, we understand it was from the minister with prime minister obviously being kept apprised as the strike was going on.

When we speak about the coalition, really the only staunch ally that the U.S. has in maintaining sanctions on Iraq and indeed in these military operations is England. All the other security council members who are part of the alliance are not involved in this, and certainly a fraying at the edges when it comes to the sanctions.

So, Britain once again standing with the U.S. in this situation. It has been confirmed to us by the Ministry of Defense that at least six British aircraft took part in this attack. Some of them, we are told, came from the Ali Salem (ph) Air Base in Kuwait. All went out, struck their targets, and came back safely, They hit, we are told, six targets that were all part of the integrated air defense system in Iraq, linked to that increased threat that you've heard the American general talk about from the Pentagon. They confirmed that they did hit a target north of the 33rd Parallel. They said that that was self-defense in response to a real threat.

In terms of what's coming from Downing Street, a Downing Street spokesman in terms of politically, they say that this was a targeted and measured response to what they call a dramatic increase in Iraqi attacks on allied warplanes in the areas that they've been patrolling, really, since 1991. One sort of way that they're describing it is they say that the Iraqi threats against allied aircraft in the month of January of this year exceeded all the threats of the whole of last year; so that's how they're, sort of, giving an idea of this increased threat.

But, as I say, Britain was involved, there is confirmation; there is no briefings planned here, either from Downing Street or from the Ministry of Defense or from the Foreign Ministry. We're just getting it from spokespeople and people on background.

And that's the situation from here at the moment -- Lou.

WATERS: Christiane, is this dominating British television the way it is U.S. television?

AMANPOUR: It certainly is, obviously. It's on the news -- we have the -- we have some of the sort of similar 24-hour cable stations here, satellite stations which are running very, you know, prominently with this, yes.

WATERS: OK; Christiane Amanpour in London.

We have the president of the United States outside the country today; he is, as we've been reporting, down in Mexico. He's been meeting with the president -- the new president of Mexico Vicente Fox. The foreign minister of Mexico is now speaking at his side as the Secretary of State Colin Powell -- we expect the president to speak with reporters down in Mexico before he leaves for his Crawford, Texas ranch in just a couple of hours.

Let's listen to what the Mexican foreign minister has to say as the president of the United States embarks on what's being touted as a new effort in strengthening hemispheric policy with Mexico -- and the Mexican foreign minister is addressing the subject.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JORGE CASTANEDA, MEXICAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): ... our place, Mexico should profit at the maxim of the talent of the productivity of its own workers for the benefit of the country, but there is a need for an order scheme of the migration of flows that will guarantee a humane treatment during security and safety and employment conditions that will be dignified for the migrants. For this purpose, we have instructed our two governments to begin as soon as possible, for negotiations at the highest level aimed at reaching short and long-term agreements that will allow us to provide, constructively, all the necessary solutions for migration and labor aspects. The problems are affecting our two countries. These efforts will be headed by the secretary of state and the attorney general of the United States and by the secretary of foreign affairs and the interior of Mexico.

The two countries will give the most -- will give a very -- will place great importance to the quality of life on the borders. We will also work in the favor of economic development and social (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Our border...

WATERS: As you're hearing, issues of economic development, trade, borders being discussed in Mexico today between the presidents of the United States and Mexico.

We're expecting President of the United States George Bush to step out momentarily to speak with reporters, and we imagine the bulk of the questions will be about the U.S. air strikes inside and outside no-fly zones of Iraq this afternoon.

However, it's a very busy day that, apparently, Natalie, is going to get very much busier.

ALLEN: And we have correspondents, as we've been saying, around the world covering the story, and we've got more coming on board here on the anchor desk. Jim Clancy and Joie Chen will be here guiding you along throughout the afternoon -- so over to Joie.

WATERS: Take it away.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, guys.

Well, of course, as Lou just mentioned, we are awaiting President Bush's comments as well as President Fox's down in Mexico.

But, of course, the interest is going to be on issues a little bit further away from home today; and that, of course, would be the issue in the gulf today -- the air strikes are close to Baghdad. One thing that has been mentioned by Mr. Bush's aide, Ari Fleischer, his press spokesman speaking earlier with reporters mentioning that this act today does not represent an escalation in attacks against Iraq or a change in policy by the new Bush administration over the Clinton administration.

On that particular subject, CNN's Wolf Blitzer is standing by in Washington for us now with a guest there -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you very much, Joie.

And joining us now is Samuel Berger, the former president's national security adviser.

You've been out of the White House now for a month. Mr. Berger, is this a change in policy -- this attack today by the coalition of the United States and Britain against these positions around Baghdad?

SAMUEL BERGER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Wolf, from what I've been told and hear, I think this is an appropriate action by the United States and Britain. It is perfectly consistent with the policy the United States has pursued for a number of years: we sustain and patrol the no-fly zone; we have to protect our pilots; and we have regularly responded to threats from the Iraqis to our planes, and in other cases have preemptively gone after elements of their air defense system, usually in the no-fly zone, but occasionally, as today, north of the no-fly zone.

BLITZER: Well, what's different about what happened today as compared to what you used to do during the Clinton administration in going against Iraqi positions?

BERGER: Well, this has been done before. This was done during the Clinton administration, where we believed that our pilots were being threatened we went, in a planned way, against specific Iraqi targets, part of the air defense system. I take it, from listening to the briefing, that this was a particularly robust strike, but we've done this before.

BLITZER: When was the last time you know of a situation like this -- a strike of this magnitude?

BERGER: Well, I don't have the details on the number of, precisely what the number of sorties were...

BLITZER: Twenty-four air -- 24...

BERGER: ... compared to in the past.

But this is the right policy; this is correct. We are patrolling the no-fly zone so that we protect the people of southern Iraq, the northern no-fly zone, the people of northern Iraq. If we're going to do that we have to first protect our pilots. The Iraqis have become more aggressive in trying to go after our planes, and when they do that we have to degrade their air defense system. Usually we do that proximately to the threat on the plane, but from time to time actions like this are necessary to avoid there being a safe haven from which radars can be used that can endanger our pilots.

BLITZER: There's already some speculation that this may have also had a political message to Saddam Hussein who, as you know, from your experience early during the Clinton administration, sought to test the new president. And if this new team, this new administration is seeking to send a very powerful message to Saddam Hussein right away at the beginning that any sort of test of the resolve of this new administration would be unwarranted.

BERGER: Well, I take it from the briefing that this was recommended by -- initially by our commanders in the field as an appropriate defensive measure to protect our pilots and our aircraft. This is something, as I say, that is perfectly consistent with what the United States has done before. Saddam Hussein should understand that we are going to patrol those no-fly zones, and if he persists in threatening our planes we'll take the actions necessary to defend them.

I think that's what the Bush administration has done again today as we did in the past. And, as I say, from what I can tell, I think it was an appropriate step to take.

BLITZER: In your experience, a strike of the magnitude of this strike -- 24 U.S. and British planes involved in this kind of strike -- is that extraordinary?

BERGER: I think that's a good-size strike, but there have been in the past, as I say, before, instances where we have, in a planned, preemptive way, gone after locations which we believed were command nodes or other capabilities that's were directing the air traffic -- the air defense system. And so, again, I think this is consistent with what we've done before, and appropriate.

BLITZER: It's been more than a year now, maybe a year-and-a- half, since there were any inspections -- U.N. weapons-inspection teams in Iraq. Your information -- based on what you know, has the Iraqi government been able to move forward in its development of weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological, perhaps even nuclear ballistic -- long-range ballistic missiles during this period?

BERGER: Well, we know that they have rebuilt some of the facilities that we've destroyed back in '98. We don't know for certain that those facilities contain weapons of mass destruction. But this is something that obviously the past -- last administration and this administration will monitor very carefully because, if we concluded that Saddam Hussein was, in fact, reconstituting his weapons of mass destruction capability that would be a serious matter and would require consideration of serious action on our part.

BLITZER: One of the major criticisms of the Clinton administration over the past year or two has been the allowing of the sanctions against Iraq, basically, many of the sanctions to crumble. Now there are flights that go into Baghdad from Russia, from China, from many in the Arab -- many of the Arab states; even France, a coalition partner -- and that the Clinton administration was really unsuccessful in keeping that kind of coalition united against Iraq.

BERGER: Well, a decade is a very long time to keep any sanctions regime in place. But the fact is, over the last 10 years we have maintained the essential and most important sanctions against Saddam Hussein, and that is his ability to spend his oil revenue to rebuild his military. And I believe having listened to Secretary Powell, that's the focus of this administration as well.

That is, we cannot let him take the 15, 16, 17 billion dollars of revenue that he gets from oil, and rebuild his military. That's why we started the oil-for-food program, so that under U.N. supervision, that revenue is spent for food and a medicine for the Iraqi people and not for weapons. That's the essence of the sanctions regime, and so far, although there has always been a degree of cheating on the part of Saddam Hussein, that has been sustained.

BLITZER: But if, money is fungible, if that money that he gets from the oil sales, from the oil revenues, he can use that for food, let's say, but other money he has, he can use for military purposes. He has had some ability over these past few years, to rebuild his antiaircraft positions and other military fortifications.

BERGER: Well the money he gets, from, the money that is under the oil-for-food program, Wolf, is distributed under U.N. supervision. So he can't buy tanks with that money.

BLITZER: But it frees up other money to but tanks.

BERGER: Well, he only has so much oil. Now there is a degree, and there has been for quite some time, of cheating, maybe in the amount of perhaps a billion out of the 17 or so billion dollars of oil revenue. We tried to limit that, to stop that, and I think new administration will continue those efforts, obviously, to deny him that revenue.

Listen, in the final analysis, if he wants to see an end to the sanctions, what he can do, as Secretary Powell said recently, is allow inspectors to come in and verify that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He's refused to do that and so long as he refuses to do that, the sanction regime is necessary.

I believe the no-fly zones are necessary to protect the Iraqi people. And as long as we're the flying the no-fly zones, we've got to protect our pilots. And if he persists in trying to use air defense against our pilots, then we will continue to do what we did consistently during the Clinton administration, what this administration obviously intends to continue, and that is to degrade those capabilities.

BLITZER: Is it your sense, that today's strike by the United States and Great Britain was an isolated incident or the beginning of pattern, series of such strikes against Iraqi military positions.

BERGER: No, I think it's perfectly consistent with what we've been doing for a long time, and that is, to go after targets that can threaten American pilots.

BLITZER: OK. Samuel Berger, President Clinton's former national security adviser, thanks for joining us today.

BERGER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Back to you in Atlanta.

CHEN: All right, Wolf Blitzer for us in Washington with Sandy Berger.

Again to our viewers we are standing by awaiting President Bush's comments in Mexico. As you know, President Bush is on his first trip out of the United States today. He is visiting Mexico, visiting with the new president there, Vicente Fox. And in just a few minutes he is expected to speak with reporters there, as you see the podium is set up. Just a few moments ago, we heard from Mexican Foreign Minister as well as from Secretary of State Powell, commenting strictly, we believe, on the issues of relations between -- within the hemisphere, between Mexico and the United States. There you see President Fox and President Bush taking a walk around, as they prepare to make their remarks.

We understand they are moments away from stepping to the microphone podium there, watching, waiting for their turn, I guess, to step up before the microphones.

The only comments that's have come from the Bush White House so far today have been from the Bush Press Spokesman Ari Fleischer, who underlines the administration's feeling that the strikes against Iraq today should not be regarded as a change in policy towards Iraq, or an escalation of a attacks against Iraq. And in fact a spokesman from the Pentagon, a short time ago says he does not anticipate that there would be any further strikes. Of course, that would depend on the outcome of events in Iraq and what happens next.

CNN of course watching through all this, following the five U.S.-- British military strikes against targets near Baghdad today. We're now anticipating, as Mr. Bush and Mr. Fox move up to the microphones, before the reporters there.

This is at Mr. Fox's family ranch in Mexico, San Cristobal, in Mexico, a warm welcome between these two leaders. They have a great deal in common, both of them ranchers. Mr. Bush, in fact, met with Mr. Fox's family even greeting Mr. Fox's mother with a kiss and a gift earlier in this day. These are two gentlemen who clearly want to show they have a good and warm relationship, hoping that will work well for them, and bode well for them in the future. Let's listen.

ANNOUNCER: We will now listen to the presidents of Mexico and the United States.

PRESIDENT VICENTE FOX, MEXICO (through translator): Good afternoon.

Good afternoon, Mr. President.

This morning I have held very productive and cordial talks with the president of the United States, Mr. George W. Bush. We have agreed on a set of principles and values to provide our relationship as neighbors with more constructive dynamics of more intense cooperation, in order to unfold all the potential of our bilateral relations.

The fact that President George Bush's first foreign visit has our country as its destination is a clear message of the interest his administration places on strengthening links with Mexico. At the same time, it is quite a distinction.

This starting point is very encouraging, so that both Mexicans and Americans, together, can inaugurate an era of shared prosperity together. I also acknowledge President Bush's demonstration of friendship by coming to Guanajuato, the cradle of Mexico's independence. And I am particularly grateful for his greeting my mother, Dona Mercedes, as well as for his visit to my house, his house, here in San Cristobal.

Let me tell you, Mr. President, that you will always be welcome in this, your home. Or in your language:

Mr. President, I want you to know that we consider you a friend of Mexico, a friend of Mexican people and a friend of mine.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, sir.

FOX (through translator): The agreements we have reached today are embodied in the document that we have, and we ratified our commitment to values of democracy and the promotion of human rights, as well as the aim that the fruits of development reach all sectors of our societies.

The global and hemispheric agenda also formed part of our talks, as is fitting in a mature dialogue between two prominent members of the international community. We have identified a renewed will for cooperation to decide, together with our Canadian partners, a region guided by the search for shared prosperity.

We, the presidents of Mexico and the United States, have the favorable circumstance of beginning our respective mandates simultaneously. This enables us to project our common objectives with a long-term vision and to undertake negotiations in areas that require decisive and systematic impetus from the two governments.

Mr. President, the spirit in which we have conducted this first working meeting marks the beginning of a novel stage in our bilateral relations. I am certain that we will be able to take advantage of the historic opportunity we have today to set out on the way to a century of shared prosperity. We will face challenges on the basis of mutual trust, with a fresh and creative vision to advance in the topics of our bilateral agenda.

Once again, welcome, and this is your home.

BUSH: (SPEAKING IN SPANISH)

Thank you very much.

It's a great honor to come to Mexico, as this important nation enjoys a new birth of freedom, signaled by President Fox's election.

Our meetings today have been a really good opportunity to renew our personal friendship and the friendship between Mexico and the United States.

Mexico is the first foreign country I have visited as president, and I intended it to be that way. Our nations are bound together by ties of history, family, values, commerce and culture. Today, these ties give us an unprecedented opportunity. We have a chance to build a partnership that will improve the lives of citizens in both countries.

I came here today to seek President Fox's views on how we can go about building on our partnership. We enjoyed a warm and substantive and frank dialogue on the many issues that shape the relationship between America and Mexico.

We talked about strengthening our trade relationship, which offers hope and opportunity on both sides of our border. We talked about how our two nations can work together to meet our current and future energy needs. We exchanged ideas about safe and orderly migration, a policy that respects individuals on both sides of the border. We talked about expanding educational opportunities. We talked about what we can do together to fight drug trafficking and other types of organized crime.

We also talked about what we can do together to extend the benefits of freedom and prosperity throughout the entire hemisphere. I told President Fox that building a hemisphere of freedom will be a fundamental commitment of my administration. We both look forward to discussing these ideas with other hemispheric leaders in Quebec in April at the Summit of the Americas.

We are welcoming a new day in the relationship between America and Mexico. Each nation has a new president and a new perspective. Geography has made us neighbors; cooperation and respect will make us partners. And the promise of the partnership was renewed and reinvigorated today.

Thank you very much.

FOX (through translator): If I understood correctly, we're going to take questions in Spanish for the Mexican press and some questions in English for the American press.

So we'll go first to the women first. And here, we'll take the Spanish question first.

QUESTION (through translator): I have two questions for the president of Mexico.

We've spoken about new agreements and a new path on migration issues. What has been the advancement on the two topics, as you foster your campaign to open the border for the free transit of people and to have the free trade agreement in the same way that the European Community has done it? Did you talk to President Bush about the amnesty for the illegal aliens in the United States?

I have a question for President Bush: What is the message that you want to send right now? What does the United States what to send to the world as a message with the new bombing of Iraq? And above all, why, Mr. Bush, at this point, when you are establishing a dialogue with the president of Mexico? Why? Is this the beginning of a new war?

FOX (through translator): Yes, actually, we discussed amply the migration issues that we had. But this is not the meeting in which decisions or details are going to be reached, because they do not belong in the power of the executive power as such, because they have to have the participation of other groups.

We have spoken on migration from the viewpoint of our countrymen that are in the United States, and we have spoken about the possibilities of working on agreements of temporary legal works and employment.

We have spoken on the firm idea that we have of fighting violence against immigrants and to work based on the law, and to see how the coyotes and all the people that will be taking these people or the polleros taking our illegal workers into U.S. territory. We have spoken of a long-term vision and constructive approach on this topic, and perhaps here the most important thing will be presented by President Bush later on.

But certainly there is a new attitude, there is a new way of approaching things, much more positive approach to things on this issue of migration.

The conclusion has been to create a commission at the highest level, as it was read in the Guanajuato proposal, to begin and to discuss and to advance on this topic in very concrete steps. I believe this is a great advancement on what we had before.

BUSH: In answer to part B of your question, the United States is engaged in the Middle East in the Persian Gulf. We will remain so.

Since 1991, our country has been enforcing what's called a no-fly zone. A routine mission was conducted to enforce the no-fly zone. And it is a mission about which I was informed, and I authorized. But I repeat: It's a routine mission, and we will continue to enforce the no-fly zone until the world is told otherwise.

QUESTION: Sir, since this is the first military action you've taken as president of the United States, I'm wondering whether it signals a hardening of the U.S. position toward Iraq. And specifically, is it your goal to drive Saddam Hussein from power? And secondly, are you putting Saddam on notice today that American military action will be more frequent or more forceful than it was before you became president?

BUSH: Saddam Hussein has got to understand we expect him to conform to the agreement that he signed after Desert Storm.

We will enforce the no-fly zones, both south and north. Our intention is to make sure that the world is as peaceful as possible.

And we're going to watch very carefully as to whether or not he develops weapons of mass destruction. And if we catch him doing so, we'll take the appropriate action.

QUESTION: Mr. President, welcome to Mexico. We will be waiting for you in Cancun.

The question is on globalization. The question is support to Mexico. And another question, certification in Mexico; will it continue? Will it disappear forever? Would you trust our friend, Fox?

BUSH: His question is on drug certification and, really, about our relations with President Fox.

I trust your president. He is the kind of man you can look in the eye and know he's shooting straight with you. I appreciate the fact that he was a one-time governor. I've got, kind of, a partiality to governors.

We need to work together on the drug issue. The main reason why drugs are shipped through Mexico to the United States is because United States citizens use drugs. And our nation must do a better job of educating our citizenry about the dangers and evils of drug use.

Secondly, I believe there is a movement in the country to review all the certification process. I'm certainly going to take the message back to the members of Congress, that I firmly believe that President Fox will do everything in his power to root out the drug lords and to halt drug trafficking as best as he possibly can.

As you know, he made some very bold and courageous statements about extradition. He showed unique leadership on that issue. It certainly caught my attention. And I believe when the American people and the members of Congress hear this bold action that he's willing to take, they will understand what I know, that he is committed to battling the drug trade.

QUESTION: Sir, now that the Republicans have told you there are not enough votes for your tax plan in the Senate, how do you proceed from here? And do you consider cutting the size of it?

BUSH: His question was about our tax plan. I don't agree with that assessment, that there's not enough votes in the Senate. I believe, when it's all said and done, we're going to get a tax bill out of the House and the Senate that will be at the level I think it ought to be.

And I know there's a lot of speculation about members, but it's early. It's early in the process.

Washington, Mr. President, has got a unique way of asking presidents to negotiate with themselves. And that's not what's going to happen in this administration. We'll get a tax package because it's the right thing for the American people.

Ours, Mr. President, is getting ready to submit a budget that will set priorities. Education will be a priority. Health care for our citizens will be a priority. Setting aside Social Security, meaning all the payroll taxes for Social Security, will be a priority.

But we still have got money left over, and I want to pass some of it back to the people who pay the bills in order to make sure our economy does not drag. And the president and I talked about economic growth. He knows exactly what I know, that if our economy were to slow significantly, it would affect our abilities to see the benefits of free trade. It would affect the Mexican economy. And so I want to assure our friends from Mexico that we will put fiscal and monetary -- I have nothing to do with monetary policy, of course -- but fiscal policy in place that will affect economic growth, because it's beneficial not only for our people, but for the Mexican people.

To answer your question directly, we're going to get a good tax cut through, and I think it's going to be the size I'm suggesting.

QUESTION (through translator): Since you two are working together on several actions that you want to undertake together in a short future and also the long term, do you support the military actions like the ones the United States is doing, bombing Iraq? Thank you.

FOX (through translator): I do not have a position or a statement on that topic specifically because this will be done through the ministry of foreign affairs in the future.

It's your turn.

BUSH: Short answer, Mr. President.

QUESTION: Much has been made of you choosing Mexico as your first foreign trip, but it's also caused some consternation among the European allies and Canada that you're going to put a greater emphasis here at the expense of those countries. What do you say to those people?

BUSH: Well, I appreciate that question. First, I met with Prime Minister Chretien and assured him that a foreign policy that understands good policy starts in the neighborhood is a vision that goes both north and south.

I would hope that nations around the world and leaders would understand the logic behind saying that good foreign policy, good relations, must be firm on our borders.

I can't think of anything more logical and more common-sensical than to understand our hemisphere, which can be and will be bound by freedom and free markets and free trade, is in the interests of our people.

We'll have a foreign policy as one that engages the world. I've rejected isolationism, as you know, and protectionism.

Ours is going to be an active foreign policy. It's going to be consistent and firm; one that starts, though, by building friendships. In this case, renewing a friendship. And it should send a strong signal to all nations who watch that if you're our friend, we'll be your friend. And Mexico is our friend and will remain our friend.

QUESTION (through translator): Do you think that it is not an improper gesture in this first visit that the recent bombing of Iraq is one that is attracting attention and would put a different shadow on this meeting here in Guanajuato?

FOX (through translator): I see no reason why we should connect one event with the other one.

Here we are in the process of building up and constructing a strategy to foster the economic and human development of a complete region that is formed by three countries that have been associated under a free trade agreement, and the relationship between the United States and Mexico that has proven already that has made advancement very constructively.

The levels of trade that we have are really fantastic, and they are the envy of many people. Many people would have never thought that this year of 2001 with a trade balance of $250 billion. This has meant development for the United States, it has meant employment in the United States, it has meant development and employment in Mexico, as well.

This is what has allowed us to reduce substantively the level of poverty in Mexico. In the last four years, more than 4 million poor people have gone beyond extreme poverty levels. This is what we have invested on to take these people above these levels. And all the time that we have invested discussing this strategic point allows us to see that there is a possibility of going ahead to get more benefits from the relationships and to be true partners toward prosperity and to be true friends and to be true neighbors.

And this purpose is something that has been clearly stated today. And we are very pleased with it, and we are full of confidence that we can see the future with a more optimistic approach, as of today's meeting.

QUESTION: Apologies to you, President Fox, for not asking a question about the U.S. and Mexico, but, President Bush, if I may, another question about Iraq. As we understand it, this was in response to violations that have happened over several weeks, perhaps several months. What prompted you to take this decision at this time?

BUSH: The commanders on the ground rightly make the decision as to how to enforce the no-fly zone. I want to assure those who don't understand U.S. policy that this is a routine mission. Some of the missions require the commander in chief to be informed; this was such a mission. It is not the first time is has happened; regrettably so.

We will continue to enforce the no-fly zones. The no-fly zones are enforced on daily basis.

BUSH: It is a part of a strategy. And until that strategy is changed, if it is changed at all, we will continue to enforce the no- fly zone. But anyway, the decision was made on the ground.

QUESTION (through translator): I would like to ask you whether there was a petition from the U.S. government, as far as oil is concerned, or any requests for support on electricity and oil? FOX (through translator): No, not specifically. We spoke about the California problem, by itself. And yes, we are speaking about the possibility of creating an energy policy that will be common to all of the northern part of the country and into Canada, United States and Mexico and part of Central America, to try to create a synergism so that each one of the countries would benefit from all of these policies. Because there is energy that we need to import in Mexico that we do not have enough. And at this moment, we know in some part of the U.S. territory this is happening, too. And the same could happen to the Central American countries.

Here what is important is to have a common policy whereby no one takes advantage of the other.

But the other way around. It's a win-win situation for everyone, that everyone would benefit from the utilization of an energy plan for the benefit of all the continent, or in this case, the northern part of the Americas.

We also spoke about water problems at the border zones. These are common problems that we have. And if we administer and manage these common problems in a timely manner and a positive and optimistic way, we could mutually be benefited in the water problems that we have at the border. And this is something that, obviously, we discussed here.

I believe this is the foundation that we laid down for our project today. And we are trying, with goodwill, to remove all the obstacles and to take advantage of all the opportunities that we have. And certainly today we saw more opportunities than obstacles. And therefore, I do ratify that this makes us see the near future with much more optimism than before.

BUSH: That's you.

(LAUGHTER)

FOX: Muy alto.

QUESTION: Mr. President, when you met with President Fox in August, in Dallas, you talked about the possibility of finding ways to share energy resources.

With the current climate in America -- energy prices high, supplies low -- can you tell me how you pushed that issue today, and what sense of progress you have?

BUSH: Yes, thanks, I appreciate that.

The question was about energy policy. First of all, good energy policy is one that encompasses not only Mexico but Canada. We must think about energy shortages and energy demands in regard to our hemisphere.

Secondly, the president and I did discuss how best to share resources to the benefit of both countries. We talked about the possibility of exploration in Canada and the United States and Mexico. A cubic foot of gas imported into Mexico is one, obviously, less able to burn in the United States. It is a hemispheric issue, and it needs to be elevated to the presidential level.

We did talk about power, the generation of power, the possibility as to whether or not, you know, in Baja, for example, more power could be added to the western grid. It's an obvious opportunity, if possible.

Now, there are some bottlenecks, and one of the things we need to do is address those bottlenecks, one of which is the ability to transmit power from south to north. Another is pipeline availability.

And we're going to need to -- so when we talk about an energy policy at home, it is also in the context of Mexico and Canada. This is an issue where we need to continue to dialogue. It's an issue that is going to affect the people of Mexico and the people of the United States if we don't recognize that we need more supply.

We can conserve better; there's no question about it. But demand is far outstripping supply, which is creating a real problem for the working people of our respective countries. And so this subject, rightly so, took quite a bit of time in our meeting, and it's going to take more time down the road.

We have a great opportunity to come together and to have a strategy that honors Mexico and honors its sovereignty and at the same time recognizes that people are what matters most. And we've got to make sure our people have got the energy necessary to be able to find jobs and find work.

FOX (through translator): We are finished. Thank you very much. We have come to the end of the press conference. Good luck and thank you.

BUSH: They just want to get in the picture.

JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR: We've been listening there to Mexico's President Vicente Fox and U.S. President George W. Bush talking about their own bilateral relations and hemispheric relations, but at the same time all of this, as the reporters pointed out time and time again at that press briefing, all of this overshadowed by the recent events in Baghdad.

Just about 3 1/2 hours ago, British and U.S. warplanes launched strikes against five command and control radar targets that were south and north of Baghdad. All of these targets hit with stand-off land- attack weapons -- surface to air missiles that struck at these targets from below that 33rd parallel, which marks the northern point of the southern no-fly zone in Iraq, a zone that was imposed by the U.S. and its allies and not the U.N. -- a controversial zone in the view of some.

But very clearly, U.S. President George Bush saying that he was involved in the process of approving this strike. Let's listen to what he said just a few minutes ago. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The United States is engaged in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. We will remain -- we will remain so. Since 1991 our country has been enforcing what's called a no-fly zone; a routine mission was conducted to enforce the no-fly zone. And it is -- it is a mission about which I was informed and I authorized. But I repeat, it's a routine mission, and we will continue to enforce the no-fly zone until the world is told otherwise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CLANCY: All right; also, Mr. Bush was saying that he was ready to take appropriate action if it was seen that Iraq was trying to produce, once again, weapons of mass destruction. Clearly, Mr. Bush taking a decidedly calm tone here, saying that very matter-of-factly: This is a matter of business, and we are in the business of preserving the situation in the Middle East, in the Persian Gulf. He said that the U.S. would continue to remain involved there and continue to try to control the situation from its own perspective. But he was clearly giving every indication that he was not becoming consumed by this, nor did he think that this particular raid represented any particular departure -- dramatic departure from U.S. policy in the region -- Joie.

CHEN: All right, Jim.

We want to turn now to the U.S. State Department. CNN's Andrea Koppel standing by there.

And Andrea, we understand that there are some developments at the State Department in relations with Iraq today.

KOPPEL: Well, Joie, earlier today there were members of the Iraqi opposition who came here. The Bush administration -- at least some within the Bush administration -- have expressed interest in trying to give more to the Iraqi opposition in their attempt to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Secretary of State Colin Powell, as you know, since the very moment he walked into this building as the top U.S. diplomat less than a month ago, has made clear that one of his top foreign policy priorities is to reenergize sanctions against Iraq. To that end he's going to be traveling to the Middle East and Persian Gulf at the end of next month.

And, Joie, that's basically what we have right now.

CHEN: CNN's Andrea Koppel at the State Department.

We want to move now to Baghdad; as Jim Clancy was telling you earlier, about three 1/2 hours ago after dark local time in Baghdad they began to hear the first sirens and understand something was happening in the area around Baghdad.

CNN's Jane Arraf is there -- Jane.

ARRAF: Joie, as you pointed out, this happened just a few hours ago -- the unfamiliar, now, sound of air-raid sirens ringing out across Baghdad followed just 10 minutes later by the sound of explosions. That -- sorry, Joie, we seem to have lost audio.

If can you hear me now, the streets -- the streets now in Baghdad are quiet, but there were the sound of loud explosions earlier, later explained by the U.S. as attacks inside the no-fly zones -- just outside the no-fly zones, rather, just on the outskirts of Baghdad. Now, there have been almost daily attacks in the no-fly zones, but these take place far from the capital in the north and south. This is believed to be the first time in two years that there have been attacks this close. We're waiting for a statement from the Iraqi government.

So far, Iraqi television has transmitted pictures of what it says are wounded children. No more details until then, but we're expecting more shortly from the Iraqi military.

Back to you, Joie.

CHEN: CNN's Jane Arraf reporting to us from Baghdad.

And again, the pictures that you're seeing there, pictures we're getting from Iraqi TV. We'll look for more information about those in the next coming minutes -- Jim?

CLANCY: All right, Joie, let's get right back to San Cristobal, Mexico where CNN's John King is standing by with the latest from there -- perhaps what we're hearing from White House officials -- John.

KING: Well Jim, certainly a measured response, or at least an attempt at a measured response from President Bush. This, the first offensive military strikes he has authorized in his less than a month in office. And we learned, of course, that this strike was authorized by the U.S. president yesterday, Thursday, at the White House after he received an intelligence briefing, we're told, at which Pentagon planners made the case that the Iraqi activity at that radar and air defense site was posing a growing threat to the U.S. and other allied pilots who daily police those no-fly zones there.

Interesting to watch as the new president was asked whether this signaled any tougher policy toward Saddam Hussein's government. He did not answer directly, but he did say that, in addition to these routine patrols of the no-fly zone, that the United States and its allies would be watching closely for any evidence that Saddam was trying to rebuild his weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Bush said the United States would take action.

And there's been the debate, remember, even during the final years of the Clinton administration as to whether these sanctions have run their course, whether they are of any use anymore. Mr. Bush signaling his firm intention to try to keep those sanctions in place; saying at that news conference -- the language a bit awkward, but the message clear, that those sanctions will stay in place until the world is notified otherwise -- Jim.

CLANCY: When we look at the situation that is there, obviously President Bush knew he would be in Mexico; he gave the approval for all of this. People raising the question -- it certainly came as a surprise, but there was a price paid for that, wasn't there?

KING: Well, certainly a price paid by this president or the Mexican president, perhaps even more so, in the sense that this appeared to be a very carefully choreographed first step out on the world stage by President Bush. He came to a place he is familiar with from his days as governor of Texas; met a leader he is familiar with, President Vicente Fox here, a former governor as well who has met President Bush three times before.

But, of course, as President Bush was making those steps -- being greeted by President Fox, some wonderful pictures here of the Mexican people responding favorably to this visit. He knew all the while that by the end of the day he would be talking about not just the new chapter in U.S.-Mexico relations, but the old nemesis of the United States, in the view of the U.S. government, anyway -- the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Bush's team saying he had no choice here; that he was presented with the intelligence briefing, that he believes the commanders on the ground should have the discretion in taking the steps they deem necessary to enforce the no-fly zones. When he received the briefing yesterday, aides say there was no question; he looked over the materials, looked over the plans and said, go ahead.

CLANCY: John King, George W. Bush's father was accused of making his battle against Saddam Hussein too personal, and one got the sense today that it was anything but that for George W. Bush there in Mexico in his comments; still, a tough message coming across.

Let's listen just to a bit of what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Saddam Hussein has got to understand that we expect him to conform to the agreement that he signed after Desert Storm. We will enforce the no-fly zone, both south and north. Our intention is to make sure that the world is as peaceful as possible, and we're going to watch very carefully as to whether or not he develops weapons of mass destruction; and if he catch him doing so, we'll take the appropriate action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CLANCY: How preoccupied is this White House with Iraq?

KING: Well, they say, certainly they're not preoccupied; but they say they are certainly going to be vigilant.

Secretary Powell, about to visit the region; he's trying to get the Israelis and the Palestinians to stop the violence and perhaps get back to the negotiating table. He wants to reach out to other moderate Arab nations in the region to build strong relationships with this new administration. All the while, it is the view of this administration, much like the previous administration, that Saddam Hussein deliberately takes provocative steps, again, in the view of the U.S. administration, to steer U.S. policy, or at least to deter or slow down U.S. policy. So they say they're not preoccupied, but they say they must show, in the early weeks of this administration, that if they were being tested, if the activity -- if that radar installation was, indeed, a test, that this president meant what he said when he said he would continue to enforce those sanctions, the no-fly zones, and he would act quickly to authorize military strikes if he deemed it necessary.

CLANCY: John, the president seemed to be saying, this didn't come from me, this came from the field, this came from the pilots that deserve our protection -- this didn't come from the White House. Is that being reflected in everything that you're hearing from officials there?

KING: Certainly, except for the fact that, because this was advanced planning -- this was not a plane flying overhead having the radar lock onto it and then having the authorization to fire immediately because of repeated activity over a period of weeks at this installation, they had to go to the president to get his authorization because there was not an instant provocation of a pilot in a sky.

But Mr. Bush saying at his news conference, and aides saying that he acted yesterday in authorizing those strikes because of the presentation from the Pentagon -- that the commanders in the region believed this was necessary. Still, hard to look at this picture and not remember he was informed today by his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, she, a veteran of the previous Bush White House during the Gulf War. Also in the room when that briefing came, the new U.S. secretary of state, retired General Colin Powell. Of course, he was the top U.S. military commander in what, at the time, was Operation Desert Storm -- Jim.

CLANCY: All right; John King there, traveling with President Bush in San Cristobal, Mexico -- Joie.

CHEN: Jim, we want to continue now on that specific subject of where the decision came from and why the decision was made to launch the strikes against Iraq earlier today. We want to consider the comments made by the U.S. Defense Department earlier today; a spokesman there saying this was essentially an act of self-defense.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre is standing by for us now at the Pentagon.

Jamie, can you talk to us a little bit about this question of where the order for this came from; and was this truly a matter of routine, or something -- a decision made by the Bush administration to move ahead with this?

MCINTYRE: Well, I think in the -- when we first got these reports in that this attack had taken place -- and just to be clear, the United States and Great Britain have been bombing Iraq on a regular basis every couple of days since 1998, when Iraq started -- late 1998 -- started challenging the no-fly zones.

What made this strike a little different is that it was a little heavier and it was outside the no-fly zone, above the 33rd parallel. Most of the strikes have been within the no-fly zone. The Pentagon says they hit five specific targets that were all command and control nodes, or command and control sites, where air defense controllers or radars were -- radars that were looking in to the southern no-fly zone and providing Iraqi gunners a better picture of where those allied planes were. So the United States embarked on this, they say, as a self-defense measure.

Now the point that the Pentagon made was not that this was -- that the new administration came into town and decided that they were going to have a more muscular response, but rather that this came back from reports from pilots who were patrolling the no-fly zone, saying hey, the frequency of missiles fired at us, the range of these missiles are getting closer, the Iraqis seem to be getting better at trying to shoot us down, we need to do something about it. And because of that, this worked its way through the chain of command, made its way to the White House -- this idea of taking out these radars to try to blind the system more in the South. And when President Bush saw it and said that this was -- a military commander said, this is what we need to protect our pilots, the president, as you said, signed off on it right away, said go for it.

He made it clear today, though, that he considered this a routine operation, not an escalation or a hardening of U.S. policy against Iraq, but continued resolve to make sure that U.S. pilots patrolling those no-fly zones are not threatened by the Iraqi air defenses. And today the lieutenant general who's part of the joint staff, the direct of operations who briefed here today said the Pentagon would rather be conducting peaceful controls of the southern no-fly zone without any confrontation. And he insisted that these strikes today were a direct response to the continued efforts by Iraq to shoot down those planes.

CHEN: Jamie, on that question of the last six weeks, and the, sort of, notion of a stepped-up and, as the Defense Department described it, I think, earlier today, a more sophisticated monitoring of U.S. and British aircraft over the no-fly zones. Is their perception that something has changed? That, perhaps, either the Iraqis have different tactics or different equipment that allowed a change to be able to more -- in a more sophisticated way, pick out the aircraft?

MCINTYRE: Well, the Iraqi air defenses were significantly degraded after the Persian Gulf War. They took another big hit after Operation Desert Fox in 1998, and they've continued to be picked away at by allied planes, mostly U.S. planes patrolling those northern and southern no-fly zones.

But Iraq has been very committed to continuing to try to shoot down some of those planes in order to weaken the will of enforcing the no-fly zone. And the latest thing they had done was concentrated a lot of missiles and guns in one area and tried to give -- direct them and coordinate them by using these radars that, I guess, they hoped were in a safe area outside the no-fly zone. And the message that the United States was trying to send today is that there is no safe haven in Iraq if there are systems on the ground that are threatening the U.S. pilots.

What the United States would like to see would be a cessation of hostilities by Iraq; an end to the challenge of the enforcement of the no-fly zone. But now Iraq continues to insist that these no-fly zones are illegal; that the U.N. resolutions that the U.S. cites to back them up don't specifically apply to these no-fly zones, and they're just continuing to resist.

So it's been a low-grade war that's been fought between the United States and Great Britain on one side and Iraq on the other since the end of Operation Desert Fox in 1998.

CHEN: Our military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre for us at the Pentagon.

Now back to Jim.

CLANCY: Well, because of what President Bush said there, and we talked with John King about it just a few minutes ago, that the U.S. was going to be prepared to take action, should the weapons of mass destruction owned by Iraq be rebuilt -- if those arsenals are put in place once again. Perhaps one of the people who, in the world, knows more about all of that than anyone else is the former head of the U.N. special commission, Rolf Ekeus. He joins us now, on the line from Stockholm.

Your reaction, now, to these very limited, we must say, raids by the U.S. against Iraqi radar installations?

ROLF EKEUS, FORMER EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, UNSCOM: Well, it's clear that the -- as we have heard, alos, from the president, one must look upon these as tactical actions in the prevailing situation. However, there is probably an undertext there in measure and message that -- of a more strategic character that is to give signal to Saddam that U.S. will not lose the interest in the what's going on in Iraq.

CLANCY: But isn't, at the same time, a message being sent from Baghdad to Washington that says, look, we have enhanced radar capability. Where is that capability coming from? What do you think might be the message of Saddam Hussein putting it in place, confronting the U.S. and British warplanes that maintain the no-fly zones?

EKEUS: Well, Iraq has, first of all, plenty of surface-to-air missiles. I mean, there are very large stocks of that. And my sense is that they have plenty of time to work on improving their radar capability, which is also helped by some, I think, significant imports of technology. So it is no surprise that Iraq (UNINTELLIGIBLE) air defense.

CLANCY: You dealt with Iraqi officials all of the time when you were the head of UNSCOM when you worked in Iraq. I'm just wondering, from your point of view, 10 years after the Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein was brought down, when Arab states joined in an alliance with the U.S. and others against him, his credibility at a low point. Now, growing out of that was a peace process; 10 years later, the peace process is what is in trouble. Is Saddam Hussein trying to come full circle here, regain some credibility in the continued confrontations?

EKEUS: That's my definite sense, that from all the time I have dealt with this administration, they have been in the forefront of rejecting the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the Arab states. And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) look back they were losing, but (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I think he sees that he (UNINTELLIGIBLE) his rejection of the peace efforts and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) so he's probably (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CLANCY: When you assess the overall situation in Iraq and when I talk about that, you see the sanctions -- U.N. sanctions still in place, the U.N. no-fly zone --

EKEUS: The U.N. sanctions, yes.

CLANCY: Rather, the no-fly zone -- not U.N. no-fly zone -- the no-fly zone imposed by the U.S., Britain and France, then France pulling out of that later. That fly zone still disputed, but at the same time, like, flights to Baghdad now becoming something of a regular news item. Do you see a degradation in the sanctions against Saddam Hussein?

EKEUS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) U.N. Security Council, including the United States, has supported the enlargement of deliveries of medicine and food and so on. And the quantities, moneywise, has been radically expanded; so it would be rather absurd to block the civilian flights and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) allow to be continued.

CLANCY: Looking at this raid that was carried out by U.S. and British warplanes; if there was a message to be sent, do you believe, from your experience, that the Iraqi regime got that message?

EKEUS: Oh, yes; I think they are very, very carefully analyzing, I mean they -- what's going on. They are very much looking in sharp focus upon what Washington is doing and thinking and even, I think, analyzing what the different players in Washington are thinking. That doesn't mean that they will not be very defiant sounds coming out from Baghdad; I think that's quite clear. And Saddam is, I said, seen politically on safer ground now when -- after the elections in Israel and so on -- that he can, so to say, make some use of the troubled waters there.

CLANCY: All right, Ambassador Rolf Ekeus, the former head of UNSCOM; that was the group that managed the inspections -- chemical, nuclear, biological weapons inspections in Baghdad. Rolf Ekeus, thanks to you for being with us -- Joie.

CHEN: All right, Jim. We're going to take a break here in our coverage of the air strike against Iraq earlier today, but our coverage will continue after a very short break.

We're going to get live reports from Baghdad; CNN correspondent Jane Arraf is there. CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour will report to us the latest from London. As well, we will hear from the U.S. State Department and CNN's Andrea Koppel there -- do all of that after a break. Stay with us.

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