Iraq remains militarily strong, spokesman says.
Iraq rejected Thursday a U.S. assertion Iraq is ''militarily exhausted,'' saying Baghdad remains military power to be reckoned with.
A spokesman for Iraq's air defense service told reporters, ''Iraq is not exhausted, but rather healthy and strong. Were it exhausted, Iraq would not have been able to be so persistent and firm in confronting the no-fly zones and challenging U.S. and British daily aggressions.''
The spokesman, Gen. Yassin Jassim, was responding to statements in Washington on Wednesday by U.S. Defense Department Spokesman Kenneth Bacon that Iraq was militarily exhausted and did not constitute a threat to its neighbors. He added that because of U.S. containment policy, Iraq was isolated and had failed to rebuild its army.
''Were it militarily exhausted, why has Iraq succeeded to neutralize the HARM air-to-ground missile? Why is the U.S. using its most up-to-date weapons and warplanes in the flights over the illegal no-fly zones?'' the Iraqi spokesman asked.
''Iraq is not isolated. Rather, it is the U.S., which uses sanctions against other countries including Iraq, that has become isolated. The clear proof...is the collapse of the U.S.-led coalition and the mounting international pressure on (the U.S.) to lift the sanctions (on Iraq),'' he added.
The general also said Kuwait has ''not been liberated. American and British troops are in Kuwait now in the form of direct military occupation. The Kuwaiti regime is paying the bill for this occupation.''
Bacon put the number of U.S. troops stationed in the Gulf at around 24,000.