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Struck 2 Iraqi Radar Outposts, Iran Says

January 10, 1988|CHARLES P. WALLACE | Times Staff Writer

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Iran reported Saturday that it had attacked two Iraqi offshore oil platforms in the northern Persian Gulf, damaging Baghdad's protective radar cover.

In Saudi Arabia, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak arrived triumphantly in Riyadh at the start of a tour of Arab states, during which he is expected to offer augmented Egyptian military assistance to the gulf emirates to help them fend off any attacks from Iran. The gulf Arab states restored official relations with Egypt in November after a break of seven years.

Iraq confirmed that a flotilla of 50 small Iranian boats had attacked the unused oil platforms at Al Bakr and Al Omaya, about 20 miles southeast of Iraq's Faw Peninsula, which Iran captured in 1986.

A military communique released in Baghdad said that 13 of the boats were sunk and the attack was repelled.

The Iranians said that during the clash, which took place Friday night, 100 Iraqis were killed and three frigates were sunk. The two platforms were hit with Iranian artillery fire and by ships from the Revolutionary Guards' navy, according to a Tehran communique.

Neither claim could be independently confirmed.

The two platforms, not used for pumping oil since the Iran-Iraq War began in 1980, have reportedly been converted into advance radar sites for Iraqi onshore defenses.

The Iraqi news agency also reported that seven people were killed and 27 others wounded during a heavy Iranian artillery barrage directed against the southern port city of Basra. The Iraqis vowed revenge.

The Iranians have been preparing a major offensive for several months in the area near Basra, according to Western diplomatic reports. An estimated 200,000 Iranian volunteers have been moved to the front.

But there have been a flurry of reports that Syrian mediators have succeeded in persuading the Iranians to postpone the offensive until after a meeting between the Iranians and the gulf Arab states.

The Saudi Arabian newspaper Sharq Awsat reported Saturday that foreign ministers of the gulf states would meet with their Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Velayati, in Damascus to discuss a truce in the seven-year war.

The reports of a breakthrough have been accompanied by a lull in the so-called tanker war, with Iraq reporting no attacks on Iranian shipping for eight days. The Iranians have retaliated against neutral shipping only after Iraqi attacks on Iranian shipping.

Egypt's Mubarak was given a royal welcome in the Saudi capital by King Fahd and other members of the ruling family. As he arrived, the Egyptian president continued to deny press reports that the gulf states had offered to help Egypt financially in return for stationing Egyptian troops in the region.

"This is nonsense," Mubarak was quoted as saying, although diplomats said the Egyptians would probably provide substantial military equipment and advisers to the gulf states.

The trip became possible after a November summit conference of Arab leaders in Amman, Jordan, agreed to allow each member of the Arab League to decide independently whether to have relations with Egypt. Ties were broken in 1979 after the signing of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.

Mubarak is scheduled to visit the United States later this month, as well as France, Italy, West Germany and Britain.

In addition to Mubarak, Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci, who is touring the Persian Gulf region, also arrived in Riyadh for two days of talks.

One likely subject of discussion between Carlucci and the Saudi monarch is the possible reduction of U.S. Navy ships in the gulf, a move that moderate Arab states fear would make their oil shipments even more vulnerable to Iranian attack.

Few details of Carlucci's talks with King Fahd are expected to be released. The Saudis imposed a news blackout during a visit last year by Carlucci's predecessor, Caspar W. Weinberger.

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