Thursday, March 20, 2003, Chandigarh, India


B R E A K I N G    N E W S

US launches war on Iraq

Dubai, March 20, 2003
The US declared a war on Iraq with its aircraft and cruise missiles striking key military targets at dawn today, barely 95 minutes after the 48-hour deadline given to President Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave the country or face military conflict expired. 

Speaking as the US warplanes thundered in Baghdad, President George W Bush, in a brief televised address, said: "On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war."

He said that Saddam Hussein has placed Iraqi troops and equipment in civilian areas in an attempt to use innocent men, women and children as shields for the army.

There was no immediate word on the whereabouts of the Iraqi leader.

Reports said some 40 cruise missiles were fired against "a target of opportunity," and explosions were heard around and south of Baghdad with air sirens screaming in the Iraqi capital. Baghdad was hit by three waves of air strikes as the day broke.

The US forces used B-1, B-2, B-52 and F-117 fighters and bombers in the strikes. The cruise missiles were launched from US ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf region as well as land bases on what is being described as a "leadership targets" in a bid to "decapitate" the Iraqi leader, US networks reported.

So far no assessment of damage or casualty has been made.

Bush said "American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger."

He said now that the conflict has come the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force. "And I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half measures and we will accept no outcome but victory."

"We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people," he said assuring the world that the coalition forces would make every effort to spare innocent civilians from harm.

Bush said that he had given the order to attack Iraq because it has weapons of mass destruction and could some day pass them to terrorists like those who struck New York and Washington on September 11, 2001.

"We will meet that threat now with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of firefighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities," he said.Back



Attack in violation of international law: Iraq 

United Nations, March 20, 2003
Iraq today said the US attack was in violation of the international law and that it would take up the matter with the UN and the Security Council. 

"This is a breach of peace. We will take this matter to the UN and the Security Council, hopefully tomorrow," Iraq's Ambassador to UN Mohammed al-Douri told reporters.

He said that Iraq wanted to tell the international community that US attack was against the UN Charter and in violation of the international law.


  Blair holds talks with Bush

London, March 20, 2003
British Prime Minister Tony Blair had a 20-minute telephonic talk with US President George Bush after asking MPs to throw their full support behind the country's forces in the impending war against Iraq.

Blair also met key Cabinet colleagues at 10 Downing Street Wednesday ahead of the expected invasion of Iraq.

They included Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Home Secretary David Blunkett and Transport Secretary Alistair Darling.

Straw earlier had an angry telephone call from French couterpart Dominique de Villepan over UK criticism of France's opposition to war with Iraq.

In his speech in the House of Commons, which gave approval for war in Iraq, Blair said the UK would do everything in its power to ensure that war against Iraq is swift with minimum of civilian casualties.

"If there is a conflict and Saddam Hussein is removed, then the future for the Iraqi people will be brighter and better as a result."

Voicing his admiration for the "dedication and commitment" of British troops in the Middle East, Blair said: "We will do everything we can to minimise civilian casualties and maximise possibilities of a swift and successful conclusion to any conflict."

Blair said a post-war administration would be endorsed by the UN to keep the country unified, reflect its diversity and respect fundamental human rights and freedoms.

Despite his own opposition to military action, Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy also voiced his support for British forces. 

Meanwhile, Britain on Wednesday night issued a world-wide alert to its nationals against heightened risk of terrorist attacks during military action against Iraq.

"Britons around the world must be vigilant for terror attacks as war with Iraq becomes imminent," the Foreign Office said.

"The risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks in public places, including tourist sites, will be especially high during military action in Iraq," a spokesman of the Foreign Office said.

"You should be vigilant, take sensible precautions, be aware of local sensibilities, monitor the media and check our travel advice for the country you live in or plan to visit," the spokesman told British nationals abroad. PTIBack

  Over 750 Indians fly home

Mumbai, March 20, 2003
More than 750 Indians, some along with their families, returned to Mumbai from Kuwait early today by two special Air India flights.

The first Boeing 747-400 flight arrived shortly after 7 am, while the second arrived three hours later, an Air India spokesman said.

As many as 372 passengers were on board the first flight, while 396 passengers arrived on the second flight, he said.

he flights were delayed due to "congestion at Kuwait airport", he said. The flights were earlier scheduled to arrive at 3.20 am and 7 am respectively. A third A-310 flight scheduled to land at Kochi with about 200 Indians, was expected to arrive at 1.30 pm, he added. PTIBack


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