Though they talk by phone every day, Blair said he wanted face time with Bush to discuss how to rebuild a post-Saddam Iraq, and to explore ways of rebuilding US-Europe relations left in tatters in the run-up to war. "I am clear that the United Nations (news - web sites) must be centrally involved" not just in humanitarian relief as the war rages, but in rebuilding Iraq after the guns fall silent, he told a Downing Street press conference. Blair said he leave Wednesday after his mid-day question period in the House of Commons for Washington, from where he would immediately go to Bush's retreat at Camp David, Maryland for talks Wednesday night and Thursday. Later Thursday, he said, he would go to New York to see Annan, before flying back to London. "I will see president Bush at Camp David to discuss not just the military campaign but also the diplomatic implications of recent events for the future -- in particular how we get America and Europe working again together as partners and not as rivals," Blair said. The snap war summit would also "assess the best way of dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Iraq... how we rebuild Iraq post-Saddam, and also, of course, our approach to the Middle East peace process." Blair has been Bush's staunchest ally in the showdown with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) over weapons of mass destruction, sending 45,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen, 120 tanks, a naval task force and 100-plus warplanes to join the US-led war. Opposition among Britons to war clearly appeared to be waning on day six of the fighting, with a poll in the Guardian newspaper Tuesday suggesting that 54 percent approved of a military attack to oust Saddam. On February 14, the figure had been 52 percent against. Britain suffered its second known combat fatality Monday when a member of Scotland's famed Black Watch regiment was killed in fighting near al-Zubayr, southwest of Basra. The first British soldier to die, a member of the Royal Tank Regiment, was killed in the same area Sunday, and two remain listed as missing. Fourteen other Britons died in two helicopter accidents, and two airmen perished when their Tornado bomber was hit by a US missile. Coalition commanders say Iraqi "irregulars" loyal to Saddam have been resisting British forces around Basra, but Blair insisted Tuesday that, overall, the invasion is going to plan. "It's precisely what you'd expect... These people are going to fight," he said, adding: "We have the forces that we need to do the job." In his first press conference since Bush launched the war Thursday with a volley of air strikes, Blair pledged that, unlike in the 1991 war to free Kuwait, the US-led coalition would not let the Iraqi people down. "My message to them is that this time we will not let you down. Saddam and his regime will be removed. Iraq will have a better future," the prime minsiter said. Warning the British people that the war is far from over, Blair said US, British and other forces would face "resistance all the way to the end of this campaign." "It will take time and perseverance and the continuing skill and dedication and professionalism of our armed forces to break it down," he said. Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 March, 2003, 17:54 GMT Email this to a friend Printable version Blair promises to back Iraqi people Tony Blair to meet George Bush Tony Blair has promised the Iraqi people that US-led coalition forces "will not let you down" as UK troops began firing in support of an apparent uprising in Basra. At his monthly news conference ahead of the assault on troop positions in the southern Iraqi city, Mr Blair said the military campaign had already achieved a "huge amount". He pledged: "Saddam Hussein and his regime will be removed. Iraq will have a better future ahead of it." Mr Blair said the Iraqi people were wary of rising up against Saddam Hussein's regime after the failure to remove the dictator following the Gulf War in 1991. He was speaking after fierce resistance from paramilitaries in Basra claimed a second British soldier's life. And coalition forces continued to advance on Baghdad - although delayed by fierce sandstorms - where they were expecting to meet extremely strong military opposition. Mr Blair also confirmed that he will fly to meet US President George Bush on Wednesday. The prime minister's spokesman said the discussions would centre on Iraq post-Saddam rather than on military strategy which had already been decided. Mr Blair is also due to hold talks with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Thursday. Early reports indicated that Iraqi forces had destroyed some pieces of U.S. ground equipment, but there were no immediate reports of any U.S. casualties. Pentagon officials said, however, that early indications suggested U.S. forces had killed 300 to 500 Iraqis in the battle. Further details were not available. Coalition forces had been in a holding pattern near Baghdad as a fierce, blinding sandstorm whipped the nation. U.S. military officials said earlier in the day they expected major confrontations in the days to come, when coalition troops encounter Iraq's elite Republican Guard Divisions guarding the Iraqi capital. "We think the toughest fighting is ahead of us," said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America today. "And we have known that all along and are we are preparing for that." A Pentagon spokeswoman said U.S. forces were within 50 miles of Baghdad. In all, more than 180,000 U.S. troops are now inside Iraq and pushing toward the Iraqi capital, ABCNEWS' John McWethy said. Before the sandstorms began rolling in late Monday, the United States had intensified air attacks on what officials say could be as many as 70,000 Iraqi troops spread across a 100-mile front south of Baghdad. Ninety percent of the allied air missions between Sunday and Monday had concentrated on these troops, their armored personnel carriers and their tanks, sources told McWethy. Sandstorm Causes Trouble Throughout the day, the monster sandstorm slowed coalition forces, but U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Victor Renuart earlier in the day maintained that military operations were proceeding apace. "It's a little bit ugly out there today," he told reporters at Central Command Headquarters in Qatar. But while the weather had affected battlefield operations, Renuart said coalition forces were expected to make a total of 1,400 air sorties targeting Republican Guard positions in and around Baghdad today. "The bottom line is that we are on track," he said. Renuart said U.S. airstrikes had destroyed six Iraqi jamming systems designed to interfere with global positioning system signals to guided munitions, which Iraq had "procured from another nation." The jamming systems have been a major pressure point between Washington and Moscow in recent days, when the Bush administration announced that it had "credible evidence" that Russian companies had sold military equipment such as the jamming devices, anti-tank missiles and night-vision goggles to Iraq. Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, has strongly denied the claims that Russian firms have sold military equipment to Iraq. But while the alleged arms sale threatens to turn into a major diplomatic row, Renuart said the jamming devices posed no threat to the coalition assault on Iraq. "I'm happy to report that we have destroyed all six of those jammers in the last two nights' airstrikes," said Renuart. "I am also pleased to say they had no effect on us." News of the destruction of the jamming devices came as President Bush today urged Congress to approve his request for $74.7 billion to fund the war. Bush's request which was made in a speech to top officers at the Pentagon followed a briefing from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Awaiting Aid And an Uprising in Basra There were conflicting reports of a popular uprising against Saddam's forces in the predominantly Shiite southern Iraqi city of Basra today. Coalition ground forces are about 50 miles outside Baghdad. (Maps.com/ABCNEWS.com) Western reporters based near Iraq's second largest city described scenes of residents taking to the streets and rampaging through areas believed to be populated by Saddam's Baath Party loyalists. Reporting from Basra, BBC pool reporter Ben Brown said British troops in the area had been banking on an uprising in the strategic southern city as aid workers have been warning about an impending humanitarian aid crisis in the area. Aid agencies say food, water and emergency supplies are low in Basra, but continued fighting around the city and in southern Iraq has prevented relief from arriving via the Persian Gulf. British troops have taken over responsibility for southern Iraq as U.S. forces continued to advance toward Baghdad. British military officials however have been unable to confirm reports of any popular uprising in Basra. Iraq's Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf told the al Jazeera television network the reports were incorrect. At a news briefing in Kuwait today, British military spokesman Chris Vernon said British troops would "help [an uprising] every which way we can." According to ABCNEWS military analyst Tony Cordesman, a popular Iraqi uprising against Saddam's regime would add immense symbolic value to the military campaign in Iraq, especially in the Arab world, where the war is viewed as a western occupation. But Cordesman also cautioned that if a southern Iraqi uprising failed, British troops would have to enter Basra, thereby increasing the chances of coalition forces being drawn into intensive urban warfare. According to U.S. military sources, counterinsurgency fighters from the Fedayeen Saddam, an Iraqi paramilitary group, has been intimidating the local population in Basra and preventing them from revolting against the regime. Military officials say U.S. ground troops are in a fierce battle with Iraqi forces near Najaf. Early reports say hundreds of Iraqis killed. There are reports of an uprising against Saddam Hussein in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. Iraq's information minister denies the reports. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says 3,500 Iraqi soldiers have been taken prisoner and thousands more have deserted. President Bush asks Congress for $74.7 billion to pay for six months of combat and vows victory for the United States. A fierce sandstorm slows U.S. troops' march to Baghdad. An Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman says his troops have destroyed several enemy tanks around Iraq, including one U.S. tank and its crew . Reporting from Baghdad today, ABCNEWS' Richard Engel said visibility in the city was low due to the severity of the sandstorms and the fact that the Iraqis had relit defensive fires around the city. U.S. military forces believe the Iraqis have been setting fire to trenches around Baghdad filled with oil in an effort to hamper coalition airstrikes. But the mood in the capital city was oddly calm, said Engel, as stores opened in the main shopping areas. When weather permitted, the air attacks on Republican Guard lines continued, ABCNEWS' Tim Scheld in Qatar reported. Explosions could be heard around Baghdad today, as well as the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk. Officials said cruise missiles launched from warships are not affected by the weather. Casualties on Both Sides Mount Six days into the ground offensive in Iraq, U.S. military officials say the overall campaign has been going well despite coalition encounters with pockets of Iraqi resistance. But the casualties on both sides have been mounting. As many as 27 Americans have died since hostilities broke out including 10 non-combat deaths with 18 deaths confirmed by the Pentagon. Two British soldiers were killed in a friendly fire incident Monday night outside Basra, a British military spokesman said today. Iraqi officials today said 16 civilians were killed and 95 others were wounded in the past 24 hours. But there were no overall Iraqi casualty figures available. A U.S. commander with the 3rd Infantry Division today estimated that about 500 Iraqis have been killed in the last two days by the 3rd Infantry Division's tanks and mechanized units as they swept through southern Iraq. Speaking at a news briefing in Baghdad today, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf said Iraq had killed eight "invaders," destroyed three armored personnel carriers and downed three U.S. helicopters. It was unclear if this included previously reported actions. But a Central Command spokesman today said he could only confirm reports of one downed helicopter a U.S. Apache helicopter that went down south of Baghdad on Monday. He added that there were no reports of any downed coalition helicopters today. The Pentagon could not confirm Iraqi claims that eight coalition troops were killed. Targeting Iraq's Medina Division As the coalition ground forces edged closer to Baghdad in recent days, attention has been focused on the Medina Division of the elite Republican Guard defending the route to Baghdad. Braving the fierce sandstorms with the 3rd Infantry Division near Karbala, about 60 miles south of Baghdad today, ABCNEWS' Ted Koppel said senior officers in the division were on a mission to destroy the Medina Division and were hoping it would create "a crack" in the Baath Party foundation. It would be the first test, Koppel said, of how they do against some of Saddam's better-equipped and better-trained forces. In recent days, the Medina Division has been the target of coalition airstrikes ahead of a ground advance into Baghdad, Myers told Good Morning America today. "You saw some of that the other night with the Apaches as they were working on the Medina Division south of Baghdad," he said. "You'll continue to see that with air, helicopters, artillery and we'll proceed on." Near the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya the site of some major Iraqi resistance in recent days ABCNEWS' John Berman, embedded with the First Expeditionary Force, said fighting was severe as coalition troops encountered Iraqi paramilitary groups armed with light weapons and grenades. Farther south, British troops today halted the advance of the Iraqi tanks seeking to press southward from the edge of Basra, a British naval commander told Reuters today. British troops have taken over responsibility for southern Iraq as U.S. forces have been advancing toward Baghdad. U.S. military sources said they have been anticipating major battles near Karbala, a Shiite holy city, and the city of Al Kut. And U.S. special forces have been flown into northern Iraq in recent days and have been fighting militants from the Ansar al-Islam, which Washington says has al Qaeda links. There also were reports that counterinsurgency fighters, the Fedayeen, were preventing some Iraqi troops from surrendering and intimidating Iraqis into fighting for Saddam. And multiple intelligence reports show that some Fedayeen members have been wearing U.S.-type army fatigues, coming into villages and executing locals who refuse to join them in guerrilla fighting, a senior administration official told McWethy. Tough Tests Ahead Military analysts say the toughest tests for U.S.-led forces may be in front of them. "Iraq has 26 divisions," ABCNEWS military analyst Tony Cordesman said. "We have encountered two, one of which virtually surrendered, and elements of another. And we're entering a whole different world as we advance north of Karbala and into Al Kut. "There are many small towns that Iraqi troops can hide in," Cordesman added. "We tend to forget that while we can often spot tanks or major armored vehicles, towed artillery is much harder to find. Infantry can be moved by ordinary vehicles. It can infiltrate into these areas. The Republican Guard are certainly a problem. So is regular infantry." On top of that, Mother Nature may get in the way over the next several days in the form of sandstorms. A Pentagon spokeswoman said sandstorms impact the military's ability to provide close air support for ground troops and targeting by air. And Cordesman said sandstorms and rain can be a problem for high-tech U.S. gear. "When you are dealing with these kinds of winds, with debris, with all the problems of rain which oddly enough can be a problem here it's a problem for night vision devices," Cordesman said. "It's a problem for lights or illuminators. It's a problem for forces that have to pause and regroup." Early reports indicated that Iraqi forces had destroyed some pieces of U.S. ground equipment, but there were no immediate reports of any U.S. casualties. Pentagon officials said, however, that early indications suggested U.S. forces had killed 300 to 500 Iraqis in the battle. Further details were not available. Coalition forces had been in a holding pattern near Baghdad as a fierce, blinding sandstorm whipped the nation. U.S. military officials said earlier in the day they expected major confrontations in the days to come, when coalition troops encounter Iraq's elite Republican Guard Divisions guarding the Iraqi capital. "We think the toughest fighting is ahead of us," said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America today. "And we have known that all along and are we are preparing for that." A Pentagon spokeswoman said U.S. forces were within 50 miles of Baghdad. In all, more than 180,000 U.S. troops are now inside Iraq and pushing toward the Iraqi capital, ABCNEWS' John McWethy said. Before the sandstorms began rolling in late Monday, the United States had intensified air attacks on what officials say could be as many as 70,000 Iraqi troops spread across a 100-mile front south of Baghdad. Ninety percent of the allied air missions between Sunday and Monday had concentrated on these troops, their armored personnel carriers and their tanks, sources told McWethy. Sandstorm Causes Trouble Throughout the day, the monster sandstorm slowed coalition forces, but U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Victor Renuart earlier in the day maintained that military operations were proceeding apace. "It's a little bit ugly out there today," he told reporters at Central Command Headquarters in Qatar. But while the weather had affected battlefield operations, Renuart said coalition forces were expected to make a total of 1,400 air sorties targeting Republican Guard positions in and around Baghdad today. "The bottom line is that we are on track," he said. Renuart said U.S. airstrikes had destroyed six Iraqi jamming systems designed to interfere with global positioning system signals to guided munitions, which Iraq had "procured from another nation." The jamming systems have been a major pressure point between Washington and Moscow in recent days, when the Bush administration announced that it had "credible evidence" that Russian companies had sold military equipment such as the jamming devices, anti-tank missiles and night-vision goggles to Iraq. Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, has strongly denied the claims that Russian firms have sold military equipment to Iraq. But while the alleged arms sale threatens to turn into a major diplomatic row, Renuart said the jamming devices posed no threat to the coalition assault on Iraq. "I'm happy to report that we have destroyed all six of those jammers in the last two nights' airstrikes," said Renuart. "I am also pleased to say they had no effect on us." News of the destruction of the jamming devices came as President Bush today urged Congress to approve his request for $74.7 billion to fund the war. Bush's request which was made in a speech to top officers at the Pentagon followed a briefing from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Awaiting Aid And an Uprising in Basra There were conflicting reports of a popular uprising against Saddam's forces in the predominantly Shiite southern Iraqi city of Basra today. Coalition ground forces are about 50 miles outside Baghdad. (Maps.com/ABCNEWS.com) Western reporters based near Iraq's second largest city described scenes of residents taking to the streets and rampaging through areas believed to be populated by Saddam's Baath Party loyalists. Reporting from Basra, BBC pool reporter Ben Brown said British troops in the area had been banking on an uprising in the strategic southern city as aid workers have been warning about an impending humanitarian aid crisis in the area. Aid agencies say food, water and emergency supplies are low in Basra, but continued fighting around the city and in southern Iraq has prevented relief from arriving via the Persian Gulf. British troops have taken over responsibility for southern Iraq as U.S. forces continued to advance toward Baghdad. British military officials however have been unable to confirm reports of any popular uprising in Basra. Iraq's Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf told the al Jazeera television network the reports were incorrect. At a news briefing in Kuwait today, British military spokesman Chris Vernon said British troops would "help [an uprising] every which way we can." According to ABCNEWS military analyst Tony Cordesman, a popular Iraqi uprising against Saddam's regime would add immense symbolic value to the military campaign in Iraq, especially in the Arab world, where the war is viewed as a western occupation. But Cordesman also cautioned that if a southern Iraqi uprising failed, British troops would have to enter Basra, thereby increasing the chances of coalition forces being drawn into intensive urban warfare. According to U.S. military sources, counterinsurgency fighters from the Fedayeen Saddam, an Iraqi paramilitary group, has been intimidating the local population in Basra and preventing them from revolting against the regime. Military officials say U.S. ground troops are in a fierce battle with Iraqi forces near Najaf. Early reports say hundreds of Iraqis killed. There are reports of an uprising against Saddam Hussein in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. Iraq's information minister denies the reports. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says 3,500 Iraqi soldiers have been taken prisoner and thousands more have deserted. President Bush asks Congress for $74.7 billion to pay for six months of combat and vows victory for the United States. A fierce sandstorm slows U.S. troops' march to Baghdad. An Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman says his troops have destroyed several enemy tanks around Iraq, including one U.S. tank and its crew . Reporting from Baghdad today, ABCNEWS' Richard Engel said visibility in the city was low due to the severity of the sandstorms and the fact that the Iraqis had relit defensive fires around the city. U.S. military forces believe the Iraqis have been setting fire to trenches around Baghdad filled with oil in an effort to hamper coalition airstrikes. But the mood in the capital city was oddly calm, said Engel, as stores opened in the main shopping areas. When weather permitted, the air attacks on Republican Guard lines continued, ABCNEWS' Tim Scheld in Qatar reported. Explosions could be heard around Baghdad today, as well as the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk. Officials said cruise missiles launched from warships are not affected by the weather. Casualties on Both Sides Mount Six days into the ground offensive in Iraq, U.S. military officials say the overall campaign has been going well despite coalition encounters with pockets of Iraqi resistance. But the casualties on both sides have been mounting. As many as 27 Americans have died since hostilities broke out including 10 non-combat deaths with 18 deaths confirmed by the Pentagon. Two British soldiers were killed in a friendly fire incident Monday night outside Basra, a British military spokesman said today. Iraqi officials today said 16 civilians were killed and 95 others were wounded in the past 24 hours. But there were no overall Iraqi casualty figures available. A U.S. commander with the 3rd Infantry Division today estimated that about 500 Iraqis have been killed in the last two days by the 3rd Infantry Division's tanks and mechanized units as they swept through southern Iraq. Speaking at a news briefing in Baghdad today, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf said Iraq had killed eight "invaders," destroyed three armored personnel carriers and downed three U.S. helicopters. It was unclear if this included previously reported actions. But a Central Command spokesman today said he could only confirm reports of one downed helicopter a U.S. Apache helicopter that went down south of Baghdad on Monday. He added that there were no reports of any downed coalition helicopters today. The Pentagon could not confirm Iraqi claims that eight coalition troops were killed. Targeting Iraq's Medina Division As the coalition ground forces edged closer to Baghdad in recent days, attention has been focused on the Medina Division of the elite Republican Guard defending the route to Baghdad. Braving the fierce sandstorms with the 3rd Infantry Division near Karbala, about 60 miles south of Baghdad today, ABCNEWS' Ted Koppel said senior officers in the division were on a mission to destroy the Medina Division and were hoping it would create "a crack" in the Baath Party foundation. It would be the first test, Koppel said, of how they do against some of Saddam's better-equipped and better-trained forces. In recent days, the Medina Division has been the target of coalition airstrikes ahead of a ground advance into Baghdad, Myers told Good Morning America today. "You saw some of that the other night with the Apaches as they were working on the Medina Division south of Baghdad," he said. "You'll continue to see that with air, helicopters, artillery and we'll proceed on." Near the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya the site of some major Iraqi resistance in recent days ABCNEWS' John Berman, embedded with the First Expeditionary Force, said fighting was severe as coalition troops encountered Iraqi paramilitary groups armed with light weapons and grenades. Farther south, British troops today halted the advance of the Iraqi tanks seeking to press southward from the edge of Basra, a British naval commander told Reuters today. British troops have taken over responsibility for southern Iraq as U.S. forces have been advancing toward Baghdad. U.S. military sources said they have been anticipating major battles near Karbala, a Shiite holy city, and the city of Al Kut. And U.S. special forces have been flown into northern Iraq in recent days and have been fighting militants from the Ansar al-Islam, which Washington says has al Qaeda links. There also were reports that counterinsurgency fighters, the Fedayeen, were preventing some Iraqi troops from surrendering and intimidating Iraqis into fighting for Saddam. And multiple intelligence reports show that some Fedayeen members have been wearing U.S.-type army fatigues, coming into villages and executing locals who refuse to join them in guerrilla fighting, a senior administration official told McWethy. Tough Tests Ahead Military analysts say the toughest tests for U.S.-led forces may be in front of them. "Iraq has 26 divisions," ABCNEWS military analyst Tony Cordesman said. "We have encountered two, one of which virtually surrendered, and elements of another. And we're entering a whole different world as we advance north of Karbala and into Al Kut. "There are many small towns that Iraqi troops can hide in," Cordesman added. "We tend to forget that while we can often spot tanks or major armored vehicles, towed artillery is much harder to find. Infantry can be moved by ordinary vehicles. It can infiltrate into these areas. The Republican Guard are certainly a problem. So is regular infantry." On top of that, Mother Nature may get in the way over the next several days in the form of sandstorms. A Pentagon spokeswoman said sandstorms impact the military's ability to provide close air support for ground troops and targeting by air. And Cordesman said sandstorms and rain can be a problem for high-tech U.S. gear. "When you are dealing with these kinds of winds, with debris, with all the problems of rain which oddly enough can be a problem here it's a problem for night vision devices," Cordesman said. "It's a problem for lights or illuminators. It's a problem for forces that have to pause and regroup."&nbsp;<br>
US warplanes launch strikes at seven locations in southern Iraq Wed Mar 19, 5:29 PM ET WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States and Britain conducted wide-ranging air strikes in southern and western Iraq (news - web sites), bombing long-range artillery and a surface-to-surface missile system that threatened coalition forces poised to invade the country from Kuwait, officials said. AFP Photo The warplanes struck at least seven locations over a 10 hour period as the clock ran on a US deadline for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) and his two sons to leave the country or face war. US and British officials said the strikes were within the scope of normal enforcement of a no-fly zone over southern Iraq, and the US Central Command said they were launched in response to Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery fire. But the strikes targeted 10 artillery systems that had been moved last week into range of US and British forces massing in Kuwait for a ground offensive as well as a surface-to-surface missile system, a US defense official said. The Central Command said long range artillery were struck at Az Zubayr and in the Al Faw peninsula, and a surface-to surface missile system near Basra. Warplanes also bombed a traffic control radar near Basra and communications sites near Ash Shuaybah, Mydaysis and Ruwayshid in southern Iraq. "The artillery was struck because they were a danger to coalition ground troops in Kuwait," the command said. "The air traffic control radar was used to direct Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery fire at coalition aircraft." In western Iraq, they targeted a radar and an air defense command center near the H-3 airfield that defends the approaches to Baghdad from Jordan, the command said. "The coalition executed today's strikes after Iraqi forces fired anti-aircraft artillery at coalition aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone south of the 33rd parallel in Iraq," the command said. In London, a spokeswoman for the British Defence Ministry said, "We are flying over southern Iraq. This evening we are targeting systems which are a threat to our forces." "We have been doing this for the last 10 years. It's the same as we've been doing, but obviously the time is perhaps more relevant," the official said.