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Iraq Steps Up Its Air Raids Against Iran : Strikes Oil Facility in Southern Gulf After Attacking Kharg Island

September 19, 1987|From Times Wire Services

MANAMA, Bahrain — Iraq said its warplanes flew a 700-mile mission Friday to attack Iran's Lavan Island oil terminal in the southern Persian Gulf and hit other targets off the Iranian coast in an escalation of its air offensive.

An Iraqi military communique said it launched a "destructive" raid on Lavan hours after attacking the main Iranian oil terminal at Kharg Island in the northern gulf. It gave no other details of the Lavan raid.

An Iraqi military spokesman said the jets also hit a "large naval target," Baghdad's term for an oil tanker or merchant ship, as well as the Bahragan Sar and Ardeshir offshore oil fields near Kharg Island.

Second Kharg Attack

It was the second reported attack on Kharg Island since Wednesday, when the Iraqi government ended an informal six-day cease-fire in fighting to mark the peace mission to Tehran and Baghdad of U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar.

But Tehran radio, monitored in Cyprus, denied that Baghdad's warplanes were successful in their attack on the terminal, which exports most of Iran's oil. Iran said it downed an Iraqi Mirage fighter in the Kharg attack.

The radio also quoted a military communique as saying Iranian fighter-bombers struck oil installations in the Kirkuk region of northern Iraq.

The terse announcement said the raid was in reprisal for Iraqi attacks on populated and industrial areas in Iran. It said all planes returned safely to base after inflicting casualties and damage.

Will Pursue Attacks

The Iraqi government newspaper Al Jumhuriya on Friday made clear that Baghdad has every intention of pursuing the attacks on Iranian targets.

"We will continue hammering on Iran's head and destroy its vital installations which feed its aggression," the paper said.

Baghdad, it said, would accept only "comprehensive" implementation of the July 20 Security Council resolution that calls on both sides to enter a cease-fire and which Perez de Cuellar was trying to get Iran to accept.

Iraq said it will accept the move only if Iran does likewise.

Al Jumhuriya said it is the duty of the Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran for refusing to accept the resolution.

Impartial Inquiry Urged

Diplomats at the United Nations in New York reported that Iranian leaders told Perez de Cuellar they would be willing to accept an "undeclared cessation of hostilities" after the United Nations sets up an impartial inquiry into responsibility for the war.

But they said Iraq told the secretary general it rejects any link between an immediate cease-fire and an inquiry.

Article 6 of the U.N. resolution foresaw the possibility of an impartial body to inquire into responsibility for the conflict.

Baghdad says Iran started the war Sept. 4, 1980, shelling border towns and engaging in skirmishes. Tehran says the war began with an Iraqi invasion 17 days later. Iran says it will not stop fighting until Iraq is branded the aggressor.

The report on the secretary general's peace mission came as Arab League foreign ministers, who are also pressing Iran for a cease-fire in the war, were preparing to meet in Tunis, Tunisia, on Sunday. Some member states are expected to call for a collective break of diplomatic relations with Tehran.

Arab States Skeptical

With fighting raging in the war, Arab League observers say Arab states are skeptical of the Iranian offer of an "undeclared" cease-fire while an independent panel looks into the question of responsibility for the war.

"This is not a response to the U.N. resolution calling for a cease-fire. You cannot be asked a question and reply with another question," one Arab diplomat commented.

In another development, Gen. George B. Crist, commander of the U.S. Central Command and the latest of a parade of senior American officials to visit the Persian Gulf region, met in Manama with the emir of Bahrain, Sheik Isa ibn Salman al Khalifa.

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