WASHINGTON – One day after President Bush suggested that Iraq and North Korea could face U.S. reprisal for continuing its weapons programs, the U.S.-led coalition monitoring the no-fly zone bombed Iraqi military targets.
The hit on a command and control center was in response to "hostile threats and acts" by Iraqi forces toward the aircraft, according to a Pentagon news release. All the British and American jets returned safely to their bases, a Pentagon official said.
The Pentagon said the hit had nothing to do with the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, but President Bush warned Iraq on Monday that the war on terror is just beginning, and there would be consequences if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein continues to produce weapons of mass destruction.
"If you develop weapons of mass destruction that you want to terrorize the world, you'll be held accountable," Bush warned Monday in response to a question on Iraq.
The Bush administration did not add to the president's comments Tuesday but repeated that if Hussein does not allow weapons inspectors into the country, there will be repercussions to be determined later.
"If Iraq is not willing to let arms inspectors into their country, they continue to violate an agreement that they promised to keep," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
The president's remarks are an extension of his comments on conditions countries need to meet to avoid being labeled pro-terrorist even though Fleischer said the policy on Iraq is not new and does not signal any post-Afghanistan plans.
In fact, administration officials say that other countries that harbor terrorists, such as Somalia, or need help to curb terrorism in their countries, such as Yemen, are just as likely to receive Bush's attention once the Afghanistan campaign is complete. Bush is meeting with the president of Yemen on Tuesday afternoon.
Fleischer said Yemen has done a lot to help with the war on terror and has been particularly helpful in investigating the bombing of a U.S. warship on a refueling stop in Aden, Yemen last year.
"They have shown a helpful new energy in combating terrorism," said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.
Some advisers are pushing Bush to make Iraq his next target and Secretary of State Colin Powell is heading to Iraq's northern neighbor Turkey next week to discuss the next phase of the war against terror.
Iraq has been slapped with U.N.-approved sanctions since the Persian Gulf War ended in 1991 with Hussein's promise to stop producing weapons of mass destruction and to open his nation to inspectors.
Hussein has not complied and threw out weapons inspectors from his country in 1997. His ambassador to the United Nations said that as long as the U.N. sanctions remain, weapons inspectors will not be allowed to return.
On Tuesday, Iraq said it is prepared to defend itself if the United States attacks. Iraq "will not be terrified by any arrogant party," the official Iraqi News Agency quoted a government spokesman as saying.
President Bush believes "we need to have a smarter sanctions policy that more tightly and narrowly defines the sanctions -- the items that would be sanctionable -- and to make certain that those sanctions are enforced," Fleischer said.
Bush urged Hussein to allow weapons inspectors into the country "to prove to the world he's not developing weapons of mass destruction."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.