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White House Disavows Warning to Iran by State Dept. on War

May 22, 1987|United Press International

WASHINGTON — A White House spokesman today rejected as unauthorized a warning to Iran by a State Department official that attacks on U.S. naval vessels, including Kuwaiti tankers, could open a new dimension to the Iran-Iraq war.

Spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, said the Administration takes exception to the comments of Assistant Secretary of State Richard W. Murphy.

At a briefing Thursday related to the Iraqi attack on the frigate Stark, Murphy said the United States is not taking sides in the war but added, "An attack on (U.S.) military vessels would open a new dimension to the war" and said it was the U.S. aim to upset Iranian plans to dominate the Persian Gulf region. (Story on Page 10.)

"We disagree with Murphy's testimony," Fitzwater said today. "He was not authorized to say that."

Murphy noted Iran has been careful not to attack U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf and he expected it would be equally cautious and avoid attacking 11 Kuwaiti oil tankers expected to start sailing under the U.S. flag next month.

Asked if the "reflagging" of the Kuwaiti vessels represented an increased risk to American forces in the Persian Gulf, Fitzwater said: "No. It's our position the reflagging represents a deterrent but does not reflect an increase of hostilities in any way."

Fitzwater also took note of the Senate's 91-5 vote Thursday for a measure demanding a report on security arrangements for U.S. vessels in the gulf before starting any escorting of Kuwaiti tankers. (Story on Page 10.)

"We intend to consult with Congress as we always have," Fitzwater said, "to keep them informed of every detail of the Kuwaiti reflagging."

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