NICOSIA, Cyprus — Iran said its warplanes attacked a bridge and a supply road in southern Iraq on Wednesday as reports persisted that Tehran is preparing a major new offensive against its gulf war enemy.
Iraqi newspapers said that Iraq's armed forces, on full alert for the last two weeks in anticipation of an Iranian offensive, will continue pounding Iranian military and economic installations.
The Iranian raids, the second in two days in southern Iraq, apparently are part of an escalating aerial campaign in the south as Tehran reportedly readies a major ground assault. Basra, a large port city, is expected to be the target.
Richard Armitage, assistant U.S. secretary of defense, said over the weekend that Washington expects Iran to launch a southern offensive within six weeks.
An Iranian military communique said its fighter-bombers "heavily bombed" a bridge and a supply route in the Amarah province of southern Iraq.
The raids inflicted "considerable damage" on the targets, and all planes returned safely to base, Tehran radio, monitored in Cyprus, reported.
There was no official comment from Iraq.
Elsewhere, the Kuwait News Agency said a "very small" explosion occurred inside a Kuwaiti building housing the offices of the American Life Insurance Co. The news agency did not identify the type of explosion or say whether it was caused by a bomb.
Meanwhile, U.S. warships escorted the 19th convoy of re-flagged Kuwaiti tankers south through the Persian Gulf as thousands of American servicemen prepared for a Thanksgiving at sea. Frozen turkeys and huge tins of cranberries have been flown to the warships, military officers said.
Since the first escort of Kuwaiti tankers placed under the U.S. flag four months ago, the number of American warships in the Persian Gulf has risen to about 17. There are an estimated 5,000 servicemen in the gulf itself and more than 10,000 others in the Gulf of Oman and North Arabian Sea.