Hardly hesitating after the joint U.S.-British airstrikes, Iraq over the weekend resumed firing on allied air patrols in the southern "no-fly zone," a Pentagon official said Tuesday.
Iraqi air defenses fired surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery at allied pilots Saturday and Sunday, according to spokesman Lt. Col. Dave LaPan of the Marine Corps. The allied planes were not hit and did not fire back, he said.
Pentagon officials have not provided a full public assessment of the damage caused by Friday's attack on Iraqi air defenses, but there was little doubt Iraq would resume contesting allied air patrols.
Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, a spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said Tuesday that the Pentagon does not intend to release a detailed assessment of damage caused by Friday's attacks because such information could help Iraq prepare a defense against any future attacks.
Quigley said the stated objective was to "disrupt and degrade" Iraq's air defenses. "We think we had an impact on that," he said. "Was it permanent? No." Later, he said the Pentagon was pleased with the results, even if the bombs were not 100 percent effective.
Meanwhile, in London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair strongly defended the latest U.S.-British bombing of Iraq.
Blair denied that the policy to contain Iraqi President Saddam Hussein -- along with military issues such as the proposed U.S. missile defense system -- could drive a wedge between the United States and Europe and force Britain to take sides.
"I think we're less alone than it seems on this," Blair said of the Iraq policy. "People sometimes understand that we'll be the ones to act. I think if you were to talk to any of our main allies, privately at least, about Saddam, they recognize the danger."
Blair spoke with reporters before his scheduled departure today for a visit to Canada and the United States. He is to hold talks with Bush on an array of defense, trade and economic issues Friday and Saturday at Camp David.
Though Iraq does not recognize the legitimacy of "no-fly zones" over the southern and northern portions of its territory, it has not contested U.S. and British air patrols as frequently in the north. According to the U.S.-European Command, which manages air patrols over northern Iraq, Iraqi air defenses in that area have fired on allied planes only twice this year, most recently on Feb. 12.
Friday's joint U.S.-British attacks against five air defense sites in the south were timed to avoid killing or injuring Chinese civilian and military workers who were helping install underground fiber-optic cables to significantly improve the effectiveness of Iraq's air defenses, a senior defense official said Monday.