NICOSIA, Cyprus — Iranian Prime Minister Hussein Moussavi on Saturday threatened "crushing blows" against U.S. targets in the Persian Gulf after Iraqi planes attacked an Iran-bound oil tanker, ending a one-month lull in attacks on vessels.
Iran has evidence that Kuwait provided the facilities for an air strike at dawn Saturday against the tanker in the northern gulf, Moussavi said in a Tehran radio broadcast monitored in Nicosia.
He did not elaborate, but the Iranians have charged in the past that Iraqi warplanes regularly fly through Kuwaiti airspace on their way to attack ships and that Kuwait aids Iraq in its 6 1/2-year war with Iran.
"Following this provocative move, insecurity in the Persian Gulf will be much greater than in the past," Moussavi said. "Everyone should know that we will not shirk making America's military prestige in the region a target for our crushing blows."
Paving America's Way
Moussavi said the attack on the tanker was designed to "pave the way for America's presence in the region."
Gulf-based shipping executives told the Associated Press in Bahrain that the vessel was the 74,000-ton Liberian-registered Tenacity. Tehran radio said the ship was sailing from Bandar Abbas in the Strait of Hormuz to Iran's Kharg Island terminal in the northern gulf.
The Iraqi raid was the first against shipping in the gulf since one of Baghdad's fighter-bombers fired two missiles into the U.S. frigate Stark on May 17, killing 37 crewmen. Iraq has said the Stark was mistaken for an Iranian warship and has apologized.
Reflagging Kuwaiti Tankers
The first of 11 Kuwaiti tankers being registered in the United States to give them protection from Iranian attacks is expected to reach the gulf by the end of this month.
Iran has warned that the reflagging will not deter its forces from attacking Kuwaiti vessels or those trading with the emirate.
Baghdad radio announced that Iraqi fighter-bombers hit "a large maritime target," which usually means a tanker, off the Iranian coast at 5 p.m.
Quoting a military spokesman, the state radio reported an "accurate and effective hit," indicating the vessel was probably hit by a missile.
Kharg Island Raid
Baghdad radio also reported a "violent and daring" air raid on Kharg. The gulf-based shipping executives, who confirmed the terminal had been raided, said a pumping station was hit, but the extent of the damage was unclear.
The Tehran broadcast made no mention of casualties or damage.
The official Iraqi News Agency quoted a military communique as saying that "today's two strikes are in line with the implementation of Iraq's resolve to deprive the Iranian regime of all wicked means that enable it to continue the war."
The Iraqi agency reported that Iraqi warplanes flew 32 combat missions against Iranian troop concentrations all along the war front Saturday.
Iraq imposed a sea blockade on Kharg three years ago, seeking to choke off Tehran's oil exports, its economic lifeline. The Iranians retaliated by attacking merchant ships trading with the Arab gulf states. Between them, nearly 250 vessels have been hit.