Editor's Note: One is tempted to call this an accident, until one remembers the comments made by administration officials like Richard Perle. Iraq is only the beginning, he said, as did a number of his powerful cohorts. Is this a warning, a tease? - wrpReuters
Friday 21 March 2003
TEHRAN - An oil refinery depot in southwestern Iran close to the Iraqi border was hit by a rocket on Friday, officials said, and the Islamic Republic warned Washington and London to respect its airspace.
Government officials, who asked not to be named, told Reuters it was not clear where the rocket, which hit the depot in the city of Abadan at around 7.45 p.m. local time (11:15 a.m. EST), had come from.
"When it happened the city of Abadan shook," Hossein, a government employee, told Reuters by telephone from Abadan which is about 30 miles east of the southern Iraqi city of Basra, and on the opposite side of the Shatt al-Arab estuary from Iraq's Faw peninsula.
The Faw peninsula adjacent to Abadan was secured earlier on Friday by British forces advancing into Iraq as part of a land attack against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Hossein said two guards at the Abadan depot were injured. Government officials were unable to give any further details on the extent of the damage. There was no indication that operations at Abadan's oil refinery were affected and no reports of any other missiles falling on Iranian territory.
The official IRNA news agency, without referring directly to the Abadan incident, said Iran's Foreign Ministry had expressed its opposition to the violation of its airspace to the ambassadors of Britain and Switzerland, which represents U.S. interests in the Islamic Republic.
Washington severed diplomatic relations with Tehran shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
IRNA said the Foreign Ministry's director general of legal affairs Mehdi Danesh Yazdi asked the envoys, who represent the two counties with the largest military involvement in the attack on Iraq, "to prevent such events from happening in future."
Heavy bombing by U.S. and British forces during the attack on Faw shattered windows and caused villagers to flee in panic in neighboring Iran, according to IRNA.
Iran, which fought an eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s in which hundreds of thousands were killed on both sides, has condemned the U.S.-led attack on its western neighbor, but vowed not to be drawn into the conflict.
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