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Iraqi Jets Strike Iran; Hopes for Truce Dashed

September 10, 1987|CHARLES P. WALLACE | Times Staff Writer

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iraqi aircraft attacked strategic centers in western Iran on Wednesday, and Tehran vowed immediate retaliation, dashing hopes for a truce while the United Nations tries to put an end to the Persian Gulf War.

Iran's official news agency, IRNA, reported figures for civilians killed and wounded in the raids at between 75 and 105. Vowing to take vengeance, Tehran advised Iraq to evacuate strategic military and industrial areas to avoid "Iranian retaliatory operations which will start within the next few hours with full intensity."

3 Jets Downed, Iran Says

Iran said it shot down three Iraqi jets and captured one pilot when ground-fire hit his French-built Mirage over the western city of Arak. Iraq acknowledged losing one plane.

Iraq's unexpected air raids followed its attacks Tuesday night on two "large maritime targets"--Iraqi shorthand for commercial ships--in an area near Iran's crucial oil exporting center at Kharg Island. Shipping sources here said that two Iranian tugboats were sunk.

Iraq said in a military communique that the raids were in retaliation for Iranian attacks on Kuwait, the tiny emirate at the head of the gulf, which provides substantial aid to Iraq. The Iraqis said they were specifically avenging three Iranian missile attacks on Kuwait last week.

The communique said the raids were intended to "underscore the blood, religious, historical bonds and ties of destiny between Iraq and Kuwait."

The Iraqi raids cast a cloud over the peace mission to the region being undertaken by U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, who is scheduled to arrive Friday in Tehran.

Perez de Cuellar is being sent to the region by the U.N. Security Council, which approved a cease-fire order to Iran and Iraq on July 20. Only Iraq has agreed to comply with the order. Iran has expressed misgivings about the order.

The Security Council demanded that both countries abstain from combat during Perez de Cuellar's mission, and there had been no serious violations of a de facto truce that began Saturday morning and lasted until the raids Tuesday night.

Schedule Unclear

It was not clear whether Perez de Cuellar will now be forced to reconsider his mission.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Charles Redman urged both Iran and Iraq to exercise restraint in view of the Perez de Cuellar mission. Redman said the Iraqi raids are "not helpful when we believe both sides should be focusing on U.N. efforts to bring a comprehensive end to the war."

Iraq's raids Wednesday hit Khorramabad, Dezful, Garang and Ganaveh, among other places. Targeted were communications centers, factories and oil installations.

In Tuesday's action, according to Tehran radio, five persons were killed and 25 others wounded in an Iraqi raid on the western Iranian town of Bakhtaran.

Based on its communiques, Iraq appears to have established a precedent: It will attack Iran in retaliation for any Iranian attack on Kuwait. Thus the process has come full circle. For the past two years, Iran has attacked Kuwait in retaliation for Iraqi raids on Iranian shipping in the gulf.

Iran exports all its oil by tanker through the gulf and is highly vulnerable to Iraqi air attack. Iraqi exports go by pipeline through Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Iranian attacks on Kuwait forced the tiny sheikdom to seek the assistance of the U.S. Navy in escorting its oil tankers in the gulf. Last weekend, after three separate missile attacks believed to have been launched from Iranian-held territory in Iraq, the Kuwaitis expelled five Iranian diplomats.

The Iraqi news agency said that Iraq will continue the attacks until "the Iranian regime accepts to live with the people of the region in peace and puts an end to the war" in accordance with the U.N. Security Council resolution.

The Iranians have already announced that they have not changed their conditions for agreeing to the resolution. These include U.N. identification of Iraq as the aggressor in the war, now just a few days short of seven years old, and punishment of the Baghdad government by the international community.

Diplomats do not believe that these conditions by Iran, a non-Arab country, will ever be accepted by the Arab world and that the fighting will continue.

The United States has said it will seek a worldwide arms embargo against Iran if it fails to comply with the U.N. call for a cease-fire.

Meanwhile, Reuters news agency reported that U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger is likely to visit the Persian Gulf at the end of the month.

The agency, quoting unnamed U.S. officials, said Saudi Arabia and Bahrain would be on Weinberger's itinerary and other stops might be added.

The Pentagon declined to confirm the Reuters report. However, one defense official said, "I wouldn't turn you away from that," when asked if tentative planning for a visit was under way.

In Moscow, according to news agency reports, Soviet Premier Nikolai I. Ryzhkov was quoted by the Tass news agency as telling an Arab League delegation that the buildup of U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in the gulf has increased the risk of military confrontation.

"Such actions distract the world community from concentrating its efforts on ending the Iran-Iraq War," Ryzhkov said.

Tass quoted him as stressing the need to implement the Security Council resolution ordering an immediate cease-fire in the conflict.

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