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Rumsfeld: Iraq Is Rebuilding

Iraq has rebuilt its air defenses since U.S. and British warplanes attacked radar and communications targets around Baghdad on Feb. 16, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Friday.

Rumsfeld offered no indication of whether, when or how the United States would respond, but he seemed to hint that any retaliation would go beyond the limited set of targets in the February raid.

"One tends to want to do things that will have somewhat more lasting effects," he told a Pentagon news conference.

He noted that the February attacks struck at air defense sites that had been linked by fiber-optic cable to make them more effective. The problem with striking those cables is that "they get re-laid."

Iraq has used its rebuilt air defenses to target U.S. and British planes which fly regularly over southern and northern Iraq to enforce "no fly" zones. Iraq considers the flights to be violations of its sovereignty.

The Feb. 16 attack    (>
Other comments by Rumsfeld seemed to suggest that near-term military retaliation may not be in the cards. He said the administration's main goal in Iraq is to have adequate warning time of any move by President Saddam Hussein's forces to attack either neighboring countries or internal rebel groups.

"Our interest is in understanding what is taking place in that country," he said. "... If, in the last analysis, you're reasonably comfortable that you have a reasonable understanding of what's taking place on the ground, which gives you a reasonable warning time, then that is what you're goal was."

The administration reportedly is considering a range of possible military responses to recent Iraqi provocations, which include a surface-to-air missile firing at an Air Force U-2 reconnaissance plane last month.

Pentagon officials speaking on condition of anonymity Friday said the Iraqis have been moving elements of their air defenses in ways that indicate they are preparing for an American and British attack.

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