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Iran Tanker Reports Mine in Gulf Lanes : Unknown Vessel Airs SOS; Americans Told to 'Keep Heads Low'

October 20, 1987|Associated Press

MANAMA, Bahrain — A mine was reportedly spotted in the main shipping lanes of the Persian Gulf today and radio monitors said an unidentified vessel was issuing distress calls 10 miles from the Iranian coast.

Diplomatic sources said the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain was advising Americans to "keep their heads low" following the U.S. attack Monday on two Iranian oil platforms.

In Washington, Adm. William Crowe, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he believes Iran might resort to terrorism to retaliate for the U.S. attack.

"They obviously will look for ways, but probably more in line with the 'silent hand' than what they have done thus far," he said.

But he also acknowledged that "the Iranians have the capability to mine."

Marine salvage executives said the Iranian tanker Khark 3 reported sighting the mine at 9:30 a.m. in a major shipping lane about 40 miles off the Iranian coast.

The Iranian tanker warned vessels to avoid the area, the executives said. They said they believed the report was accurate because it came from a commercial craft.

North of Oil Platforms

The area is about 100 miles north of the oil platforms destroyed by the United States. U.S. officials said Monday's attack was in reprisal for an Iranian missile strike Friday on a U.S.-flagged tanker. (Story on Page 6.)

Nearly two hours after the mine sighting, a distress signal was picked up by radio monitors from an unidentified vessel that gave its location as 10 miles from the Iranian coast.

"The vessel only put out an SOS but it did not identify itself or mention what happened," said one radio monitor. Because of its location only Iranian boats can help it, he said.

Also today, Iran's official news agency quoted Oil Minister Gholamreza Aghazadeh as saying the U.S. attack caused $500 million in damage and has threatened the gulf with an oil spill.

A "number of oil company workers were wounded, two of them seriously," he said at a news conference in Tehran.

Threat to Avenge Attack

Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency, which carried Aghazadeh's remarks, also quoted Iran's Parliament Speaker as saying Iran will avenge the U.S. attack "in the coming days."

"We have said we will not let any aggression go unanswered. This is not a threat but a reality," said Parliament Speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger hinted today that more violence might be necessary to teach Iran that the United States will not tolerate its attacks on merchant shipping.

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