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No Battlefield Pause, Says US Central Command - 2003-03-29

The United States Central Command has announced that it is limiting cruise missile flights over Saudi Arabia after that country complained that some of the missiles had fallen onto its territory. A top Central Command official also says it is still too early to confirm the details of a suicide attack in central Iraq that killed four U.S. soldiers Saturday.

U.S. Air Force Major General Gene Renuart, the allied coalition's director of operations, told reporters at forward headquarters in Qatar that U.S. forces have decided to halt cruise missile launches over parts of Saudi Arabia after the kingdom complained that some of the weapons had landed on its territory.

General Renuart indicated that there have been problems with some Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from U.S. Navy ships, presumably in the Red Sea. "In the case of Saudi Arabia, we did have a number of T-Lam [Tomahawk] missiles that were reported down in their territory," he said.

The general says the United States is trying to fix the problem and will consult with the Saudis about resuming the cruise missile launches when there is no chance they could endanger populated areas of the country.

On another matter, General Renuart says it is still too early to confirm all the details of a suicide bombing Saturday that killed U.S. soldiers near the town of Najaf, in central Iraq. The attack occurred when a taxi stopped at a U.S. checkpoint on a highway north of the town. When the driver waved for help, the U.S. soldiers approached the vehicle, and it exploded.

General Renuart says he is concerned about future suicide attacks. But he says they will not affect coalition military operations. "We are concerned about any kind of an unconventional attack on our forces, and each one of those is reviewed to ensure that any other means that might be considered at checkpoints or in our force protection measures are taken into consideration," he said. "But I think, in this case, it will not have any operational effect. It's certainly a tragedy for those families, but no operational effect on the battlefield."

General Renuart also denied that there has been a battlefield pause by those elements in the allied ground offensive closest to Baghdad. "There is no pause on the battlefield," he insisted. "Just because you see a particular formation pause on the battlefield does not mean there is a pause."

Earlier, some U.S. field commanders were quoted by reporters traveling with American forces as saying that they had been ordered to pause for four to six days in their push toward the Iraqi capital because of supply shortages and stiff Iraqi resistance.