U.S. Plane Fires Missile on Iraq

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WASHINGTON: Is the standoff with Saddam suddenly back on? "This doesn't have to be a major incident -- unless somebody wants it to be," says TIME U.N. correspondent Bill Dowell. He was referring to an incident early this morning in which a U.S. F-16 fired on an Iraqi radar installation after the radar "locked on" to a patrol of British jets. "The radar lock-on is the decision of a local commander, and it's easily disavowed by Baghdad," says Dowell. "If the Iraqis want, they call it an act of aggression and make a confrontation with the U.N. out of it."

For its part, the Pentagon says the bombing was a reaction to a "hostile act" and acted strictly by the book. If an Iraqi radar operator locks in on an Allied plane, it will respond with force. "The U.S. was just showing the flag," says Dowell, who doubts the U.S. are interested in carrying this any further. "They were feeling us out, and we let them know we'll react." The reaction from Iraq officials, who deny that lock-on ever happened, has been grumpy but low-key. The country's ambassador to the U.N., though, was sure to include a dig at the U.S.: the missile, he said, had "of course" missed its target and landed in a reservoir.