TEHRAN — President Ali Khamenei called Iraqi President Saddam Hussein a "dirty vulture" Friday and said Iraqi air raids killed 1,786 Iranian civilians in the past two weeks.
Iraq's warplanes bombed Iranian cities again Friday.
Iran said its forces broke through defenses east of Iraq's southern provincial capital of Basra, killing or wounding 2,000 Iraqis. Iran opened a major ground offensive toward Iraq's second-largest city Jan. 9.
An Iranian government official, who requested that he not be identified by name, told reporters that Iranian troops driving on Basra will besiege the vital port rather than try to capture and hold it.
"We don't plan to take Basra. We are not mad," the official said. "We are not going to drop straight into Basra. We are going to surround it, lay siege to it," the official added.
The Iraqi air raids on the cities of Esfahan, Tabriz and the holy city of Qom left scores of civilians killed or wounded, Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Khamenei told a prayer meeting in Tehran that Iraq's president should be hit hard so the Persian Gulf states could live in peace, according to the agency.
Addressing a congregation estimated at 80,000 by Western journalists, Khamenei said Iraqi planes hit 29 Iranian cities in the past two weeks, killing 1,786 civilians and wounding more than 6,000.
Khamenei said the attacks followed Hussein's "cynical calls for peace" and proved the Iraqi president could not be trusted in any peace talks.
In a radio address Wednesday, Hussein called for a negotiated settlement to the 6-year-old war.
An Iraqi military communique said Dezful in southern Iran was also bombed Friday, in addition to the three cities named by Iran.
The communique, quoted by the state-run Iraqi News Agency, said the raids were in retaliation for Thursday night's long-range Iranian missile attack on Baghdad that left 54 dead or wounded.