U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday that Iraqi anti-aircraft fire on U.S. and British planes patrolling no-fly zones was unlikely to be viewed as a violation of the recently passed U.N. Security Council resolution.

"Let me say that I don't think the Council will say that this is in contravention of the resolution that was recently passed," Annan told reporters on the first of a two-day visit to Kosovo.

The resolution was responsible for the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Baghdad after a four year absence to search for Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction program.

In Washington on Monday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the Iraqi anti-aircraft fire "appears to be a violation" of the latest U.N. resolution.

Also Monday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld called recent Iraqi attacks in the no-fly zone "unacceptable," but added the United States would hold back on going to the U.N. Security Council to debate possible military action against Iraq.

On Sunday, Rumsfeld, speaking in Santiago, Chile, said the United States is waiting for a pattern of Iraqi misdeeds to emerge before going to the Security Council.

The United States appeared to be the only member of the 15-member Security Council to claim that a "no-fly" zone violation could be used as a trigger for war under the recently passed Resolution 1441.

The document demands that Iraq destroy its alleged weapons of mass production program and includes a sentence that could be interpreted as requiring Iraq to stop its frequent attacks on U.S. and British planes enforcing "no-fly" zones over the country's northern and southern sectors.

The line in the resolution says Iraq "shall not take or threaten hostile acts" against any personnel of any U.N. member state who are "taking action to uphold" any Security Council resolution.

Some in the Bush administration say that applies to the flight-interdiction patrols because they were implemented to uphold an April 1991 U.N. resolution designed to keep Iraq from repressing its civilian population — Kurds in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south.

That view is not universally accepted, however, because the patrols are not explicitly authorized by the Security Council.

Iraq has never accepted the legitimacy of the "no-fly" zones and has tried for years to shoot down the pilots who enforce them.