YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Iraqi Raid Shatters Lull in Tanker War

September 09, 1987|From Times Wire Services

MANAMA, Bahrain — Iraq on Tuesday signaled an end to a three-day lull in attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf, saying it hit two "large naval targets" east of Iran's Kharg Island oil terminal.

The announcement was made by the official Iraqi News Agency, quoting a military spokesman who said all planes returned home safely after the raid. The term "large naval targets" usually refers to oil tankers.

The spokesman was also quoted as warning that Baghdad will keep up the strikes until Iran agrees to obey a July 20 cease-fire order that was approved by the U.N. Security Council in an attempt to end the seven-year-old Iran-Iraq War.

Tuesday's strikes could not be independently confirmed, and no other details were available.

Diplomats said that the brief respite had been related to the peace initiative of U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar. He urged a suspension of hostilities as a condition for his mission, which is tentatively scheduled to begin Thursday in Tehran and will later take him to Baghdad.

The attacks came only hours after a convoy of Japanese ships returned to the Persian Gulf, ending a five-day suspension of such traffic ordered by Japan's Shipowners Assn. and Maritime Union. Restrictions were imposed after Iranian Revolutionary Guards attacked a Japanese-flagged tanker last week.

Also on Tuesday, Libya, an ally of Iran, was trying to mend fences with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and diplomats in Moscow pressed efforts to end the war.

The Iraqi News Agency said Hussein held talks with Libyan Foreign Secretary Jadallah Azzuz Talhi in Baghdad. It was the first such meeting since Iraq severed diplomatic relations with Tripoli in June, 1985, when Libya signed a "strategic alliance" with Iran.

Although Libya is a less important ally for Iran than is Syria, Tripoli has cooperated with Tehran on intelligence.

'Imperialist' Presence

In Moscow, the Soviet Union and Iran joined in condemning America's "imperialist" presence in the gulf and called for removal of all foreign military ships.

The United States started a naval buildup in the gulf region this summer to keep shipping lanes open, and U.S. Navy warships have begun escorting reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers. Later this week, the battleship Iowa and five escort ships are scheduled to leave East Coast ports for deployment with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea, the Navy announced Tuesday in Washington.

The criticism of the United States came at a meeting between Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze and visiting Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Larijani.

It coincided with the arrival of an Arab League delegation, which made the trip to press its views on the war. In a recent special meeting in Tunisia, the league urged Iran to accept the U.N.-ordered cease-fire or face the prospect of having ties severed with league states.

Diplomats and Arab sources said the visits are part of the Soviet Union's effort to step up its diplomatic involvement in Persian Gulf affairs and maintain good relations with both sides in the war.

Los Angeles Times Articles