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Iran Decides to Stay Neutral in Gulf Conflict

From Reuters

Iran’s top policy-making group Saturday reaffirmed Tehran’s neutral stance in the Persian Gulf War.

The declaration from a National Security Council meeting gained further authority by the rare attendance of Iran’s spiritual leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Before the declaration, there had been calls in the Iranian Parliament and press for a “holy war” against the United States, solidarity with Iraq and an end to Tehran’s neutrality in the war.

The Islamic Republic News Agency said the council, chaired by President Hashemi Rafsanjani, also warned Israel against “spreading the war to other Islamic countries” and reiterated Iran’s full support for the Palestinian cause.

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Iran fought a war with Iraq from 1980 to 1988. Baghdad accepted Tehran’s peace terms soon after invading Kuwait last August.

One of those who called for a holy war against the United States and its allies was the Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali, 64, who said the U.S.-led attack on Iraq was not aimed at liberating Kuwait but was striking at Islam.

Khalkhali told the Parliament, “We should not leave the Iraqi people standing alone in this battle, since if the United States emerges victorious it will not leave the region easily.”

Khalkhali, equally fervent in advocating a holy war against Baghdad during the Iran-Iraq conflict, became notorious in the West after he appeared on television in 1980 poking a stick into the burned corpses of American soldiers in the Iranian desert.

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Eight soldiers had been killed when a helicopter on a hostage rescue mission collided with a transport plane on takeoff in a sandstorm and exploded. The rest of the mission escaped. The 52 American hostages they had gone to rescue were freed nine months later after complex negotiations.


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