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Iran Claims It's Driving Iraqis Back : But Dissidents Say They're Preparing for Fresh Thrust

July 29, 1988|Reuters

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Iran said its forces were chasing Iraqi troops and Iranian dissidents back toward the border today after driving them from three towns in western Iran. But the Iraqi-based dissidents, acknowledging that they had pulled out of the towns of Eslamabad and nearby Karand after 72 hours, said they were moving back to the frontier only to prepare for a fresh thrust into Iran.

In New York, U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar told reporters that his talks with Iran and Iraq on ending the eight-year-old war were moving in the right direction.

He denied that the talks were deadlocked over Iraq's insistence on face-to-face negotiations with Iran, which Tehran has rejected until a cease-fire is in place.

Direct Talks Possible

Tehran Radio quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati today as saying direct talks were possible after a truce if Perez de Cuellar asked for them.

Diplomats said the drive into Iran by the National Liberation Army of the Moujehedeen Khalq opposition group appeared to be aimed at securing a strong position in any Iran-Iraq settlement.

"The forces . . . gradually began to return to their bases to prepare themselves for yet more extensive and decisive battles to overthrow the (Ayatollah Ruhollah) Khomeini regime," the rebel army said in a telex to Reuters in Nicosia.

Martial Music

Tehran Radio broke into its normal morning programs with martial music to announce the counteroffensive by its troops supported by jets, army helicopters and tribesmen.

Iran's forces had killed 4,500 Iraqi troops and dissidents since Thursday night in the counterattack on Eslamabad, about 60 miles from the border, Karand and Gilan-e Gharb, it said.

Revolutionary Guards, volunteer militiamen and tribesmen were battling on through the hills toward Sar-e Pol-e Zahab, about 10 miles inside Iran, the radio added.

In New York, Perez de Cuellar was due to confer with Velayati later today and said he might also meet Iraqi Foreign Minister Tarik Aziz. Perez de Cuellar has been holding separate meetings with the foreign ministers since Tuesday to discuss a possible cease-fire.

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