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ON THIS DAY

15 January 1973: Nixon orders ceasefire in Vietnam. President Nixon has ordered a halt to American bombing in North Vietnam following peace talks in Paris. The decision comes after Dr Henry Kissinger, the president’s assistant for National Security Affairs, returned to Washington yesterday from France with a draft peace proposal. Representatives from North and South Vietnam and the United States have been at the negotiating table and reports from Paris say progress has been made with compromises on all sides. But many political issues remain to be resolved. Although attacks against the North have been halted, air assaults are continuing against communist forces in South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Communist negotiators in Paris are now calling for the ceasefire to be extended to these areas. President Nixon’s special envoy to Saigon, General Alexander Haig, is in the South Vietnamese capital briefing the president on the 25 article peace agreement worked out in Paris. Initial discussions with President Nguyen Van Thieu lasted nearly three hours. Afterwards, the president ordered a five-man delegation to fly to France to consider the proposals in more detail. Reaction in Washington has been cautious. Senator Barry Goldwater, who previously supported the American role in Vietnam, said: “I can’t say peace is at hand, but I feel that we’re making progress.” The Daily Telegraph correspondent in Saigon says President Thieu may feel it is unwise “to jeopardise further American support by holding out against an agreement which Washington considers just”. (Source: BBC)

17 January 1991: ‘Mother of all Battles’ begins. The Gulf War Allies have sent hundreds of planes on bombing raids into Iraq, at the start of Operation Desert Storm. The American, British, French, Saudi and Kuwaiti aircraft took off at 2330 GMT last night. Their bombs were aimed at military and strategic targets, including an oil refinery and Baghdad airport. At least 400 raids took place. Latest reports say all the Allied aircraft have returned home safely, although France says four of its planes were hit. US Defence Secretary, Dick Cheney, said the operation appeared to have gone “very well”. Two hours after the raids began, President George Bush made a televised address. He said the military objectives were clear – force Iraqi troops out of Kuwait and restore the legitimate government. In Baghdad, Saddam Hussein remained defiant. He said the “Mother of all Battles had begun”. He urged the Iraqi people to “stand up to evil”. First news of the bombing came from reporters in Baghdad working for the American TV network, CNN. They reported hearing air raid sirens shortly before the bombs hit. President Bush said: “Our operations are designed to best protect the lives of all the coalition forces by targeting Saddam’s vast military arsenal. “Initial reports from General Schwarzkopf are that our operations are proceeding according to plan.” The British Prime Minister, John Major, came out of Number Ten shortly before 0800 GMT to make a statement to reporters. “No-one wanted this conflict. No-one can be pleased about the fact this conflict has been necessary,” he said. “I hope now it is clear to Iraq that the scale of the Allied operation is such that they cannot win. “I hope that Saddam Hussein will now make a very swift decision that he will do what he’s been invited to do by the world community for a long time, that he should get out of Kuwait and end this matter swiftly and decisively.” He said the attacks would continue until Saddam withdrew his troops. Allied planes have taken off this morning to launch a second round of air strikes. (Source: BBC)

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