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Iraq Says It Attacked Tankers Off Iran

October 29, 1987|From Times Wire Services

KUWAIT — Iraq said Wednesday that its warplanes raided three tankers off Iran in the Persian Gulf and industrial targets on the mainland. Iran threatened to answer any Western economic embargo by sealing off the Persian Gulf.

Iran also said that three of its warplanes approached American warships south of the gulf in defiance of U.S. Navy warnings.

Meantime, the 13th convoy of Navy vessels and reflagged tankers arrived safely in Kuwait, which has been hit by three Iranian missiles this month.

Shipping sources in the gulf said they could not confirm the attacks on tankers, as reported by Iraq. The Iranians indirectly confirmed bombing sorties on the mainland by saying 18 people were killed and 70 wounded in Iraqi air raids on civilian areas.

Iranian President Ali Khamenei renewed the oft-expressed threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow gulf gateway whose shores belong to Iran and Oman.

Tehran radio, monitored in Cyprus, said Khamenei's remarks were prompted by an embargo President Reagan imposed this week on nearly all trade between the United States and Iran.

"The Strait of Hormuz is a waterway for shipping and for the Persian Gulf countries," he said. "The day we feel no ship is coming to us through that waterway, we will not allow any ship to enter the Persian Gulf.

"We have been threatened by an economic blockade by the Western states. We are not afraid of such things. We have an appropriate reply to any measure."

Commenting on the U.S. embargo, a Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said his nation will review any U.S. request to join a ban on imports from Iran, taking into consideration its location and its policy of neutrality in the Persian Gulf War.

Major Oil Suppliers

The warring neighbors, Iran and Iraq, supplied about 75% of Turkey's oil import needs in the first eight months of this year.

And in Tokyo, the Japanese government, which imports about 8% of its oil from Iran, said it will seriously consider a U.S. request to join a trade embargo against the Persian Gulf nation.

"The matter is the most serious nature," the Japanese Foreign Ministry. "We would like to view the request in the most careful manner. We want to discuss it within the government first."

Against the backdrop of renewed clashes between Iran and Iraq, Moscow's chief Middle East peace negotiator arrived in Baghdad at the start of a gulf tour aimed at coaxing Iran into accepting a U.N. appeal for a cease-fire.

The chief Middle East troubleshooter, Yuli M. Voronstov, has been a force in the gradual improvement in relations between the Kremlin and Tehran. Voronstov, who is believed to be acceptable to Baghdad as a peace negotiator, will also visit Iran and Kuwait, the target of recent Iranian Silkworm missile attacks.

In Washington, the Pentagon said the 290,085-ton Middletown and its escort vessel, the guided-missile frigate Ford, arrived at Kuwait on Wednesday without incident.

The Middletown is the last of 11 Kuwaiti tankers to be registered in the United States and given the American flag to qualify them for U.S. Navy escorts. Iran considers Kuwait an ally of Iraq.

"There was no unusual Iranian surface or air activity and the weather was relatively good throughout the transit," the Pentagon said.

Meanwhile, shipping executives reported a fire at Saudi Arabia's Safaniyeh oil field near Kuwait, the world's largest offshore operation. They said one drilling platform burned for hours, and there might have been one casualty.

The fire may have been accidental, the sources said, but Saudi authorities were investigating. Arabian American Oil Co., commonly known as Aramco, operates the field.

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