President Issues ‘Friendly Warning’ to Gulf Neighbors With AM-Kharg
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ President Ali Khamenei on Friday told Iran’s Persian Gulf neighbors they face ″a game with no clear end″ if they allow Iraq to use their military bases to launch attacks on Iran’s main oil terminal at Kharg Island.
Khamenei, delivering a sermon on the Moslem holy day, said this was a ″friendly warning″ and that Iran seeks to improve relations with other gulf countries.
Iran and its Arab neighbor, Iraq, have been at war since September 1980. Iraq has claimed it’s carried out 13 bombing raids on Kharg Island since Aug. 15.
Khamenei, speaking from a platform at the center of Tehran University campus, told a crowd of thousands, ″If attacks against Kharg Island are launched from military bases inside Persian Gulf countries, then they would have fallen into an Iraqi trap and would have entered a game with no clear end.″
It was the first Iranian reference to Iraq’s alleged use of bases in other gulf countries to raid the terminal. Khamenei did not mention any country.
Gulf oil and shipping executives reported Friday that the terminal, located just off Iran’s coast in the Persian Gulf, apparently had been shut down for repairs. It handles 90 percent of Iran’s oil exports, and the Tehran government relies on the revenue to finance the war.
The president’s sermon followed an appearance by an Iranian air force pilot who told the crowd Iranian pilots were ready to carry out suicide missions against Iraqi warships.
″It is our dream that if Imam Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini orders us, we will crash our planes against enemy vessels,″ said Capt. Mahmoud Ansari.
Ansari praised the will of Iranian fighters to become martyrs of the Islamic revolution.
The crowd shouted in response, ″Martyrdom is our pride,″ and ″We are all soldiers of Khomeini,″ overall leader of Iran.
Khamenei, a Shiite Moslem cleric, also threatened for the second time in a week to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz if Iraqi attacks on Kharg Island halt Iranian oil exports.
The strait is the only exit from the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.
″We’ve said it many times. The day (Iraqi) threats cripple our oil exports, we shall not allow others to export one drop of oil or import goods,″ Khamenei said.
He accused Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of trying to thwart Iran’s efforts to improve relations with other Persian Gulf nations.
″We don’t threaten them, but give a friendly warning that despite Saddam’s intentions, we want to normalize and create friendly, closer relations with the Persian Gulf countries,″ Khamenei said.
Oil and shipping executives along the gulf said after Iraq announced its latest attack on Kharg Thursday that the oil terminal was operable.
However, several reported Friday that it apparently had been shut down. Iran issued no official comment.
″In taking the war into the waters of the Persian Gulf, Saddam (Hussein) is trying to force us into a harsh game,″ Khamenei said. ″We shall not fall for Saddam’s game.... We do not intend to be the first in creating the crisis.″
During his 90-minute speech, the gray-bearded Iranian leader also challenged military analysts who doubt Iran’s ability to close the Strait of Hormuz.
″I don’t want to prove it otherwise,″ he said, ″but remember they have always underestimated the power of the Islamic republic.″