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Iraq: Attacks Could Continue For Several Days

London, 18 December 1998 (RFE/RL) - British Defense Secretary George Robertson says raids on Iraq carried out by British Tornado warplanes overnight have gone well. Robertson told reporters today in London that air defense sites, command and control centers, and the infrastructure serving Iraq's Republican Guard units had been targets. Last night's joint U.S. and British raids were the second attacks on Iraq in two days. The two countries say the missions aim to reduce Iraq's military capabilities. Officials say additional attacks could continue for several days.

Iraqi officials say at least 25 people have been killed so far in the raids. The figures include only deaths in and around the capital, Baghdad. They could not be independently confirmed.

Iraqi news reports say the deaths and injuries include civilians and that several buildings belonging to Baghdad University, including a museum and a college of pharmacology, were hit. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said earlier that only military sites are being targetted.

The attacks followed a report this week by UN arms inspection chief Richard Butler that Iraq was not cooperating fully with the inspections.

World opinion remains sharply divided over the wisdom of the strikes. Russia and China, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, continued their strong condemnation of the attacks today.

Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said the air strikes may force Moscow to rethink its strategy of cooperation with NATO. But after a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on Brussels today, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said cooperation would continue.

Sergeyev did not attend the meeting and was represented by lower-level staff.

Russia's State Duma today is considering a resolution calling for the country to unilaterally abandon UN sanctions imposed on Iraq. Moscow has already recalled its ambassadors from Washington and London for consultations to protest the assaults.

China today expressed its "deep regrets" following the second wave of air strikes. The Foreign Ministry said it is urging the U.S. and Britain to stop the attacks.

Arab governments and newspapers in the Middle East also mostly condemned the assaults. The newspaper As-Safir in Lebanon said the bombings had given Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein a new lease on life.

Meanwhile, governments in Europe largely support the action.

Dutch foreign minister Jozias van Aartsen said today that Iraq had made military action unavoidable. But Italy and France expressed reservations.