U.S. hits Iraqi anti-ship missile battery

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

The United States has struck an Iraqi anti-ship missile launcher near the Persian Gulf.

Officials said the missile launcher threatened U.S. and allied ships in the Gulf region. They said the launcher was located near the port of Basra.

Officials said this was a rare allied attack on an Iraqi anti-ship missile battery, Middle East Newsline reported.

"The coalition targeted the anti-ship missile launcher because it was a threat to coalition maritime forces operating in the north Arabian Gulf," U.S. Central Command said on Monday.

Most of the attacks by British and U.S. warplanes have targeted Iraqi air defense facilities.

On Friday, British and U.S. fighter-jets attacked an Iraqi air defense command near the Kuwaiti border. The attack also targeted four communications stations.

Central Command said the U.S. military has also been dropping leaflets to Iraqi troops that warn them against attacking allied warplanes. Leaflets have been dropped at a rate of more than once a week since November.

The United States has been sending thousands of troops in the Gulf region over the last week. Most of the troops are being deployed in Kuwait, where a major exercise is planned over the next few weeks. On Monday, the U.S. military held an urban warfare exercise near the Iraqi border.

But Middle East diplomats and officials said the United States appears uncertain over whether it will have enough military assets and international support to launch a war against Iraq by March. In Ankara, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Abdullatif Sener said the U.S.-led war could be postponed to next year.

In an unrelated development, Arab diplomatic sources reported that Lebanese security authorities have confiscated 12 tons of military equipment bound for Iraq. They said the equipment was bought in Belarus by Lebanese agents for the regime of President Saddam Hussein.

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