First wave targeted Saddam

THE first wave of air strikes on Iraq was targeted on the country's top leadership, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon confirmed today.Mr Hoon said that the missile strikes were only the "preliminary stages" of military operations.

THE first wave of air strikes on Iraq was targeted on the country's top leadership, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon confirmed today.

Mr Hoon said that the missile strikes were only the "preliminary stages" of military operations.

Asked whether Saddam Hussein was the specific target of the attacks, Mr Hoon said: "What I can confirm is that the leadership of Iraq are clearly part of the reason why Iraq is a threat to the wider world. It is the leadership in Iraq which controls Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. And that is what we are trying to deal with.

"I'm prepared to say that we were dealing with the leadership of an appalling regime, yes.'


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Pressed on whether Saddam was the particular target, Mr Hoon said: "The purpose of these initial operations was simply to deal with the leadership, the threat to our safety and security posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in the hands of an absolutely appalling group of people'.

Mr Hoon said the broadcast apparently made by Saddam on Iraqi state television earlier today was being examined to assess its authenticity.

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"Work is being done to analyse that particular interview to judge whether this was in fact a pre-recorded interview or whether it was live.'

In another interview Mr Hoon did not appear to believe that the attack had succeeded in eliminating Saddam.

The Defence Secretary said: "This is simply a warning shot across the bows of the Iraqi leadership. They cannot rest, they cannot hide, we will simply deal with them.'

Mr Hoon stressed that today's action was not the start of the "major conflict'.

Earlier, Mr Hoon said he had not been in the dark about the American action.

"I was well aware that this target was to be addressed,' insisted Mr Hoon. "There is absolute openness, close co-operation between the two countries, other members of the alliance who are engaged in what are only the preliminary stages of military operations.'

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