U.S.-led coalition aircraft have carried out a series of strikes in southern and western Iraq but the Pentagon indicates these do not mark the start of an all-out attack.

Coalition aircraft struck long-range artillery pieces, a surface-to-surface missile site and radar and communications facilities. Some of the targets were located near Iraq's southern port of Basra, considered a key objective in the early stages of any all-out U.S. attack.

But a senior Pentagon official suggests the strikes, along with earlier leaflet drops giving Iraqi troops instructions on how to surrender, do not mark the much-anticipated start of an allied offensive.

As the senior official puts it, "no one will be able to mistake the beginning of the war."

That start is expected to feature an unprecedented series of bomb and missile strikes, together with a ground assault out of Kuwait by tens of thousands of coalition troops.