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|Sunday, July 29, 2001, updated at 11:20(GMT+8)|
Iraq Says Nearly Hits US F-15 Jet, Not U-2 Spy PlaneIraqi air defenses have nearly hit a US F-15 jet overflying Iraq's southern no-fly zone on Tuesday, rather than a U-2 spy plane as claimed by the US, an Iraqi military spokesman said Saturday.
In a statement carried by the official Iraqi News Agency (INA), the spokesman said that Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery, by using upgraded Russia-made missiles, just missed a U.S. F-15 plane flying at an altitude of 11 kilometers over southern Iraq on Tuesday.
Yet U.S. President George W. Bush and Pentagon officials said on Thursday that Iraqi forces tried to shoot down a U-2 spy plane as it flew a reconnaissance mission Tuesday over southern Iraq, the spokesman said.
The U-2s usually fly at altitudes greater than 60,000 feet (20, 000 meters).
Iraqi air defense system has not targeted U.S. and British warplanes flying at altitudes of 70,000 feet (21,000 meters) , the spokesman said, adding that Iraqi artillery have often opened fire at U.S. and British F-14, F-15 and F-16 warplanes which fly at a much lower height.
The intention of the U.S. was "to justify itself for launching more air attacks against Iraqi radar and air defense installations in the future," the spokesman said.
Two no-fly zones were set up in northern and southern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, claiming to protect the Kurds in the north and Shi'ite Muslims in the south from possible attacks by Iraqi government troops.
Baghdad does not recognize the air exclusion zones and have regularly fired at aircraft patrolling them since joint U.S.- British air strikes against Baghdad on December 1998.
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