Britain dismisses reports about air force orders in Iraq

MOSCOW/LONDON (Reuters) - Russia called in the British defense attache in Moscow on Sunday after a British newspaper published what London said was an inaccurate report that its pilots had been given permission to attack Russian jets if fired on.

The British tabloid, Daily Star Sunday, quoted unnamed senior defense sources as saying it was just “a matter of time” before British fighters were involved in a confrontation with Russian jets over Iraq.

Moscow this month began bombing rebels in Syria in support of its ally, President Bashar al-Assad. Britain, which wants Assad to step down, is conducting air strikes on Islamic State militants in Iraq, but has yet to decide whether to extend its action to the Islamic State fighters opposing Assad’s forces in Syria.

A spokesman for the British Foreign Office said in a statement that the attache had had a meeting in the Russian Defence Ministry after it sought “clarification over inaccurate newspaper reports concerning RAF rules of engagement in Iraq”.

Russian news agencies had earlier reported that the British defense attache had been summoned to explain the reports.

The attache repeated Britain’s concerns about Russian bombing in Syria, which London has said complicates the situation there, the Foreign Office spokesman said.

Reporting by Jack Stubbs and Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Kevin Liffey