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Rabin Says Iraqi Strike Unlikely As U.S. Establishes a ‘no-fly Zone’

There is “very low” probability that Iraq will retaliate against new allied military moves by attacking Israel, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said this week.

But he is urging Israelis to keep public discussion of the issue to a minimum.

Rabin spoke Tuesday, on the eve of President Bush’s anticipated announcement that U.S. and allied warplanes would enforce a “no-fly zone” over southern Iraq in an effort to prevent Saddam Hussein’s air force from attacking Iraqi Shi’ite Moslems.

Bush announced the allied operation Wednesday morning in an appearance in the White House newsroom in Washington.

He said the ban on flights by Iraqi fixed and rotary-wing aircraft south of the 32nd parallel would go into effect in 24 hours and “remain in effect until the coalition determines it is no longer necessary.”

Rabin, who also serves as defense minister, reinforced the assessment made by military authorities at a Cabinet meeting Sunday that the threat of an Iraqi attack was much smaller now than during the Persian Gulf War.

Meeting with the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, he urged that discussion of the issue be kept low-key, “so as not to create a momentum of speculation.”

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