Iran reportedly seizing 132 planes that fled Iraq

July 31, 1992|By New York Times News Service

KUWAIT CITY -- Iran has decided to expropriate 132 military and civilian Iraqi planes that sought refuge in several Iranian cities in the final phase of the Persian Gulf war to escape destruction at the hands of allied forces last year, Saudi and Kuwaiti officials here say.

The number of the Iraqi planes is much larger than reported earlier, when accounts put the number at 60, including Russian-made MiG fighters and Sukhoi bombers as well as several European-made civilian planes and U.S. Boeing 747s.

Arab officials who confirmed the report that appeared this morning on the front page of the Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat said they were informed by the Iranians of the decision, which they said Iran was making as a first step toward claiming more than several hundred billions of dollars in damages from the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-1988.

Kuwaiti officials said that six of the airplanes that Iran had been holding were Kuwaiti-owned Airbus civilian aircraft, which they had been negotiating to get back.

The first of the Kuwaiti planes was returned yesterday, the Kuwaitis said, but others are still held up, since Iran is demanding $90 million from Kuwait for parking and maintenance fees.

Officials of gulf countries who asked not to be identified said they understood that more than 100 of the Iraqi airplanes were military aircraft that are being absorbed into Iran's air force.

If the newspaper reports are accurate, the confiscated planes would provide the Iranian air force with a strength it has not seen since the Iraq-Iran war and the cutoff of U.S. supplies in 1979.

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