BAGHDAD — An Iraqi newspaper on Monday threatened Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for abetting U.S. and British airstrikes on Iraq, as Israel and the United States began a Patriot missile exercise reminiscent of the Persian Gulf War.
About 11,000 Iraqis marched Monday in the capital, some burning American, British and Israeli flags and carrying banners declaring that "aggression will not scare us and sanctions will not harm us"--the latest in daily rallies since Friday's attack.
In Kuwait, the foreign minister brushed off the suggestions of retaliation in Iraq's state-run newspapers. "They have the right to . . . say what they want," Sheik Sabah al Ahmed al Jabbar al Sabah told reporters in the Persian Gulf emirate. "But Kuwait is protected by its people, its friends, its Arab brothers and its allies."
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia allow allied planes to fly from their air bases to enforce the "no-fly" zones over Iraq. U.S. officials said the planes in Friday's attacks flew from land bases and carriers in the gulf, without specifying which ones.
The indirect threat came in Monday's edition of Al Thawra, the newspaper of Iraq's ruling Baath Party.
"Must Iraq forgive Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for participating in the aggression?" the paper asked. "Does Iraq have the right to take military measures to retaliate for the aggression and those who facilitate it . . . if they continued the aggression and repeated it?"
The answer, it said, was left to "Arabs, especially those in the gulf states."
The Iraqi government is basking in widespread international support against the U.S.-British raids--which were the largest and closest to Baghdad in several years. Arab allies of the United States have criticized the attacks, as have France, Russia and China. Now the uproar threatens to overshadow U.N.-Iraqi talks next week.
The United States and Britain say their planes hit long-range radar and associated facilities that Iraq has increasingly used to coordinate its defenses against allied planes patrolling no-fly zones over southern and northern Iraq. The United States and Britain say Iraq cannot fly its planes over those areas of its own territory; Iraq says the no-fly zones are illegitimate.
Meanwhile, in southern Israel, a five-day U.S.-Israeli military exercise began Monday on a stretch of desert where Patriot missiles will be launched.
The same type of missile was used against Iraqi Scuds fired at Israel during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. The Israeli army said the exercise was planned more than a year ago and was not related to the U.S. and British airstrikes Friday on Iraq.
According to U.S. Maj. Martin Downie, the live missiles will be fired close to drones. The missiles will not aim at the drones but at an area nearby. The teams will then measure for accuracy.
During the Gulf War, the Patriot missiles deployed in Israel proved ineffectual against Iraqi Scuds fired at the Jewish state.