Iraq said it launched a big attack today to...


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraq said it launched a big attack today to oust Iranian forces occupying its oil-rich Majnoon Island and accused the United States of hypocrisy in charging Iraq was using chemical weapons in the Gulf War.

'Our military action is now taking place,' Iraqi Defense Minister Gen. Adnan Khairalla told a news conference in Baghdad. 'Fighting is now going on to dislodge the enemy.'


In a dispatch monitored in London, the official Iranian news agency IRNA said: 'A heavy Iraqi counterattack was repulsed by the Islamic forces of Iran in the southern end of the Majnoon Island, in southeast Iraq today.

'According to reports from the battle area, a large number of enemy troops from the 25th Mechanized Brigade and the 5th Infantry Battalion were killed or wounded in their futile attack. Large numbers of enemy equipment were also destroyed,' the IRNA dispatch said.


Asked about State Department charges Monday that Iraq was using 'lethal chemical weapons,' in the 42-month war, Khairalla said: 'Why the political hyposcrisy? Have the spokesmen forgotten what the U.S. did in Vietnam?'

'You can take any (Iranian) corpse you want for an autopsy ... Why this enthusiasm?'

He did not directly deny that Iraq was using chemical weapons, saying, 'All the conventional weapons are enough to achieve our battlefront aims.'

U.S. administration officials said the Iraqis apparently began using the gas for the first time in the war 'because it's the one way to stop human-wave attacks.' They said the death toll is 'in the hundreds.'

The U.S. officials have not said where they think the Iraqis received the chemical weapons, although the Iranians have charged they came from Britain, an accusation that the British government denies.

Doctors in Stockholm, where 15 Iranian soldiers were under treatment for burns, said one of them died Monday from wounds apparently caused by a chemical of the mustard gas-lewisite family, a liquid gas that blisters the skin.

IRNA said Monday that 65 foreign diplomats in Tehran were taken to the city's Labafi Nejad hospital to see 'convalescing victims of chemical weapons as used by the Iraqi regime in war fronts.'


'More than 1,000 Iranian combatants suffered from symptons of their exposure to chemical elements in the war fronts. Those afflicted by chemical bombs are suffering from blisters and eye injuries, as well as respiratory, blood and kidney problems,' IRNA said.

It said more than 200 had been hospitalized, and 173 remained under treatment in Iranian hopsitals or abroad.

Majnoon Island has estimated oil reserves of 7 billion barrels and lies in marshlands just inside the Iraqi border some 250 miles southeast of the capital of Baghdad. The Iranians captured the island Feb. 24.

Khairalla refused to give details of the fighting but indicated Iraq's armed forces were using artillery and other long-range fire to force the Iranians off the 80-square-mile island.

He did not make it clear if Iraq would use an amphibious assault. Iran used boats when it seized the island. But the general did say 'The oil fields are safe because the technicians capped them well before the Iranians occupied Majnoon.'

Khairalla said Iran had been publicly warning of a new attack despite its heavy losses in the latest series of offensives against Iraq launched since Feb. 15.

Citing Iraq's earlier claim of 50,000 Iranians killed, the general said Iraq's statistics were based on bodies that were counted.


'Our figures are based on what you see and what your cameras see,' he told reporters.

On Mondy, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati rejected direct peace talks with Iraq, saying 'the Iraqi regime did not understand any language except that of force.'

But Iran said it would accept mediation of the conflict, which broke out Sept. 22, 1980, by an 'international court' if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was put on trial for starting the war.

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