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SHOWDOWN WITH IRAQ

Iraqi MIG-25 Entered Saudi Space, U.S. Says

March 03, 2003|From Reuters

PRINCE SULTAN AIR BASE, Saudi Arabia — U.S. warplanes came within two minutes of firing at an Iraqi MIG-25 fighter jet after it sneaked into Saudi airspace last week, U.S. Air Force pilots said Sunday.

The daring probe Thursday by Iraq's fastest warplane -- a move rarely attempted since the 1991 Persian Gulf War -- indicates that Baghdad is willing to take risks to test U.S.-led forces rapidly building up troops, planes and other equipment in Saudi Arabia, U.S. military personnel said.

"He came 15 to 20 miles into Saudi airspace and went nose-to-nose with us at 70,000 feet," F-15C fighter pilot Lt. Col. Matt "Zap" Molloy said. "He wisely turned around when we gave him a good hard radar lock.... We were two minutes away from firing an air-to-air missile in his direction."

Saudi officials said they had no knowledge of any such incursion.

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