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AIR RAID SIRENS STIR UP FEARS IN BAGHDAD

SHARE AIR RAID SIRENS STIR UP FEARS IN BAGHDAD

Baghdad's residents look to the skies, fearful of U.S. bombs, while their leaders vow to retaliate if attacked again.

Air raid sirens sounded in the capital Wednesday, followed by an all-clear signal about 20 minutes later. State-run television said Iraqi air defense "suspected a hostile air raid."The alert sent hundreds of residents, hardened by years of confrontation with the West, into the streets to see if there were any signs of attack. Many vehicles took cover.

Tension has been building in the city since a June 27 U.S. missile attack on Baghdad, the second one this year. Anti-aircraft guns in Baghdad also fired at a target on June 29, apparently homing in by mistake on an Iraqi military plane.

In Washington, Pentagon officials would not comment on Wednesday's alert.

The United States hit Baghdad June 27 to retaliate for an alleged Iraqi plot to kill former President Bush. Iraq denied it was involved.

In January, U.S. forces fired cruise missiles at a Baghdad factory linked to the country's nuclear weapons program. The attack followed Iraq's refusal to allow inspection flights as part of the cease-fire terms.

At an emergency Parliament session held hours before the sirens sounded Wednesday, Assembly Speaker Saadi Mehdi Saleh said Iraq was not seeking another confrontation with the United Nations or the United States.

But "let the aggressor know, we will do what we can to reply to the aggression," he said.

All 250 members of the National Assembly raised their hands in support of the stance. But some members warned the government that the United States was trying to force Baghdad into a new conflict.