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Soviets, Iranians Criticize U.S. Buildup in Gulf With AM-Iran-Gulf

July 17, 1987

MOSCOW (AP) _ Top Soviet and Iranian officials on Friday criticized the increased U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf, saying it has aggravated tensions there.

Soviet President Andrei A. Gromyko met in the Kremlin with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Larijani, and they concentrated their discussions on the gulf, according to Tass, the official Soviet news agency.

Larijani, who arrived in the Soviet capital Thursday, also met separately with Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze and First Deputy Foreign Minister Yuli Vorontsov.

″The sides expressed the common opinion that the aggravation of the situation in that basin is a result of a buildup by Washington of its military presence off the shores of Iran, Iraq, and other Arab states,″ Tass said. ″The Soviet Union condemns these actions by the U.S.A.″

The nearly 7-year-old war between Iran and Iraq has spread to the oil-rich gulf, and foreign oil tankers and freighters have been attacked by both sides. The United States plans to hoist its flag on 11 Kuwaiti tankers and provide warship escorts through the waterway as early as next week.

Gromyko restated the Soviet position that all warships from countries not located along the gulf should be withdrawn. He urged Iran and Iraq to stop fighting and to stop threatening gulf shipping.

″There is a direct connection between the Iran-Iraq war and the situation in the Persian Gulf,″ Tass said. ″The sooner an end is put to the senseless slaughter, the sooner the tensions built up by Washington there will be eased.″

The Kremlin repeatedly has called for removal of all foreign warships from the gulf and expressed concern a U.S. buildup could touch off a war.

Earlier Friday, a Soviet admiral said the U.S. Navy has twice as many warships as his country in the gulf. He rejected speculation the superpowers might create a joint force to police the waterway.

″I can’t imagine joint operations of Soviet and U.S. naval ships in the Persian Gulf,″ said Adm. Nikolai N. Amelko, former chief of the Soviet Pacific Fleet. ″This absolutely runs counter to our ideas and views on this region.″

At a meeting organized by the government news agency Novosti, Amelko told reporters the U.S. building was ″alarming.″ He said the Soviet Union would oppose any military buildup in the gulf, but was vague about what the Kremlin’s response might be.

″As far as our reaction is concerned, it would be most negative,″ Amelko said, without elaborating. ″We’re against any escalation of military action in this very dangerous region.″

Amelko said there are four Soviet ships in the gulf: a frigate and three minesweepers.

″Those ships of the Soviet Union constitute absolutely no threat to the countries of the Persian Gulf or the nine U.S. ships deployed there,″ he said.

The Soviet Union had a fifth warship, a small amphibious vessel, in the Indian Ocean, he said.

Asked to assess the U.S. chances for protecting the Kuwaiti tankers, the 72-year-old, highly decorated veteran of World War II said it had the means to do the job.

″The U.S. Navy in the Indian Ocean has no problems, in terms of communications and logistics,″ said Amelko. ″In the Indian Ocean, the U.S. Navy has abundant naval bases and support means to provide for that operation.″

He said the U.S. aircraft carrier Constellation can operate for months if it is escorted by another eight to 10 ships.

″That is, militarily speaking, the U.S. military and its Navy are capable of beginning the conflict we all want to avoid,″ said Amelko, a military inspector and adviser to Defense Minister Dmitri T. Yazov.

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