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2nd U.S. Warship Warned Off Iraqi Jets : Planes Flew Away After Destroyer Identified Itself, Pentagon Says

May 21, 1987|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — Iraqi fighters similar to the one that attacked the frigate Stark twice approached an American destroyer this week in the same area but reversed course after being warned that the vessel was a U.S. Navy warship, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

A lone Iraqi Mirage F-1 approached within 25 miles of the destroyer Waddell on Monday night, and two others came within similar range of the ship Tuesday morning, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Waddell had gone to the assistance of the stricken Stark and was in the vicinity of the frigate at the time.

"On both occasions, Waddell identified herself as a U.S. Navy warship and the aircraft left the area," the Pentagon said.

Sources, who asked not to be named, said the planes approached to within about 25 miles of the destroyer on both occasions. The Pentagon refused to confirm that aspect of the story.

Compensation Proposal

The sources also said that the Waddell, not taking any chances in the aftermath of the attack on the Stark, had activated its own fire-control radar systems and energized its missile systems and Phalanx anti-missile gun as soon as the Iraqi planes were detected.

Meanwhile, U.S. Navy Secretary James H. Webb said Wednesday that Iraq presented an initial compensation package to the United States on Tuesday for the missile attack against the Stark.

Webb gave no details about what the Iraqi compensation package may have contained or whether it included payment for repairs to the ship, reparations to the families of the 37 dead sailors or both.

"They came forward with their own initial proposal for compensation yesterday (Tuesday), and we've been working on that," Webb told Pentagon reporters. "They said they would cooperate, and they have proposed the compensation package."

In Baghdad, Foreign Minister Tarik Aziz said Tuesday night that the fighter pilot who attacked the Stark believed he was firing on an Iranian vessel and did not receive warnings from the U.S. Navy ship.

American officials have said the Stark twice warned the Iraqi Mirage F-1 by radio that it was approaching a U.S. Navy vessel.

But Aziz said at a news conference in the Iraq capital that the Iraqi pilot did not receive any signals from the frigate Sunday night before firing missiles that punched a hole in the ship's port side and triggered a devastating blaze.

"I checked with the commander of the air force myself, and he assures me the pilot did not receive any warning," Aziz said. "Pilots usually attack from a long distance and cannot identify the ships."

Aziz, speaking in English, said the pilot believed that "he was aiming at an Iranian target. That's what he went for."

He said Iraq has asked the United States to provide a full report on the attack. "We are still waiting for the American version of the whole story. It seems it is not prepared yet," he said.

Aziz said that when the U.S. report is available, "we will compare notes and find out what happened. Then we can see whether the pilot has to be blamed or not.

'Necessary Measures

"If he is to be blamed, his commander is going to take the necessary measures," he said without elaborating.

In Washington, Webb said Iraq should explain the details about how and why its Mirage fighter attacked the Stark. "We shouldn't have to be working it backwards from a hole in the ship to figure out what was fired, " he said.

"If they're going to cooperate with us, they should come forward and tell us," Webb said. "They need to understand that the people in this country are concerned and would like a compl1702126880under which the missiles were launched."

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has apologized for the attack to President Reagan.

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