American and Soviet warships have participated in a joint effort to locate and destroy a mine in the Persian Gulf, raising the possibility of greater cooperation in protecting merchant shipping in the vital waterway, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), said Wednesday.
Specter told reporters in Bahrain that the guided missile cruiser Richmond K. Turner and an unidentified Soviet minesweeper cooperated Jan. 5 in locating and destroying a mine.
The Soviet minesweeper was escorting a ship when it spotted the mine. It shepherded the vessel past the mine, apparently planted by Iran, then turned back and coordinated a meticulous night search with two helicopters from the Turner, Specter said.
In Constant Contact
Specter, who was shown a transcript of radio conversations during the operation, said the Soviet vessel was in constant contact with the bridge of the Turner and that it destroyed the mine after the Turner's helicopters spotted it.
The Navy did not report the incident, and the senator said he did not know where it took place. However, the Turner has frequently been stationed in the northern section of the 550-mile waterway.
"It could be a really remarkable U.N. precedent if the United States and the Soviet Union are able to work together as these ships were in destroying this mine," Specter told reporters.
Specter, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is in the gulf region studying the massive U.S. naval force deployed to protect U.S.-registered merchant vessels.
The U.N. Security Council in July approved a resolution calling for a cease-fire in the war between Iran and Iraq.
Iraq accepted the terms of the resolution, but Iran said it first wanted Iraq to be declared the aggressor. The Security Council is now set to debate an arms embargo against Iran, but the Soviet Union has not yet said it would approve.
Meanwhile, a fire aboard the Cypriot-registered tanker United Venture, attacked earlier this week by Iraqi jets in the Persian Gulf, has been extinguished. Greek shipping officials confirmed that eight merchant crewmen were killed in the attack.
An Iraqi fighter jet sent an Exocet missile crashing into the crew quarters of the 74,000-ton vessel as it was steaming southward in the gulf filled with Iranian gasoline, officials of Diana Shipping Agencies S.A. reported.
The officials said the dead crewmen included four Greek officers and four Filipino crewmen. A fifth Greek aboard the tanker was listed in serious condition.