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Tanker With U.S. Escort Under Way in Gulf Region

September 23, 1987|From Associated Press

Despite the increased tension in the Persian Gulf and the possibility of more floating mines, shipping sources said today that a reflagged Kuwaiti gas carrier has begun a southbound voyage under U.S. escort.

The reported departure of the 46,723-ton Gas Prince from Kuwait would be the 10th convoy since President Reagan's program of escorting Kuwaiti tankers went into effect in mid-July.

But Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, asked in a Washington television interview whether a convoy was moving, replied, "Not that I know of."

American warships, meanwhile, swept a strip of the central Persian Gulf today to recover mines believed planted by the Iranian ship that U.S. helicopters attacked this week.

Commercial ships were warned away from the waters about 50 miles northeast of Bahrain and there were reports that some mines had been found.

Pentagon officials said threats of Iranian reprisal for the ship attack would not deter Weinberger from leaving as scheduled for a five-day trip to the region. He was to visit Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and U.S. warships.

Britain announced today that it was closing Iran's military procurement office in London and urged a U.N. arms embargo because of Iranian attacks on Persian Gulf shipping.

The British action against Iran followed a Monday attack by Iran on the British tanker Gentle Breeze in which one crewman was killed.

President Ali Khamenei of Iran, in New York for a U.N. session, said the U.S. government had taken the road to war. "The people of the United States have a right to ask why is their government dragging them toward war," he said.

Also today, President Reagan said it would be a "great mistake" for Congress to place new limits on the Administration's security moves in the Gulf, as lawmakers considered whether to do just that.

Reagan was asked about moves on Capitol Hill to give Congress a say over whether Navy ships can continue to escort Kuwaiti oil tankers flying the U.S. flag, as they have for two months.

"I think Congress would be making a great mistake in putting any limit of that kind on," the President responded during an Oval Office photo session with former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky and his wife, Avital.

On Capitol Hill, the U.S. attack Monday on the Iranian ship Iran Ajr prompted new demands for Reagan to invoke the War Powers Act of 1973, a step he has firmly resisted.

The act, enacted in the closing days of the Vietnam War, provides that the White House must send Congress a written report within 48 hours after U.S. forces are sent into "imminent involvement in hostilities."

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