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Baghdad accuses Tehran of firing missiles into Iraq, threatens riposte

BAGHDAD, June 11 (AFP) - Baghdad on Friday accused Tehran of firing three long-range missiles into a military base of the Iranian People's Mujahedeen in Iraq and threatened a riposte.

"The Iranian regime carried out a cowardly attack against Iraq by firing on Thursday at 8:46 p.m. (1646 GMT) three long-range surface-to-surface missiles at one of the bases of the People's Mujahedeen," a government spokesman told the official news agency INA.

"Let the Iranian regime be warned against continuing these aggressive actions which constitute a dangerous escalation and a threat to the sincere efforts made to restore good neighbourly relations.

"Iranian leaders are wrong to believe there will not be any riposte," he said.

Iraqi officials made no mention of any casualties in the missile attack, but a People's Mujahedeen spokesman said six Iraqi civilians were wounded in a village just outside the base at Ashraf, 110 kilometres (65 miles) northeast of the capital, near the border with Iran.

During a guided tour of the base Friday, Mujahedeen officials took reporters to the village of Sheikh Shenif, just a kilometre (less than a mile) away, and showed them a damaged house where they said the Iraqis were wounded.

Reporters were also shown missile fragments and craters in the ground.

Mujahedeen spokesman Farid Sulaimani said three Scud-B missiles hit the base and a fourth exploded in mid-air. No Mujahedeen fighters were wounded in the attack, he said.

The Scuds were fired from an Iranian Revolutionary Guards' base called Muntazari at Khorramshahr, more than 800 kilometres (500 miles) to the south, he said.

Mujahedeen fighters at the base were on high alert. "The organization has taken the necessary steps to deal with any fresh attack," said base commander Pari Bakhshai.

Sulaimani said the missiles were one of a "series of terrorist acts perpetrated by agents of the Iranian regime, including a truck bomb," on Wednesday.

Mujahedeen leader Massud Rajavi sent an urgent message overnight to UN chief Kofi Annan calling for "an end to these aggressions."

He accused Iran of violating a Security Council resolution, which ended the Iran-Iraq war in 1988.

The missiles struck just hours after six Mujahedeen fighters killed along with an Iraqi civilian in a truck bombing were laid to rest at the base.

Both the Baghdad government and the Mujahedeen blamed the Tehran government for the bombing as well.

The seven were blown up Wednesday on the edge of Baghdad in the deadliest attack on the group inside Iraq since 1986.

A pick-up truck exploded 15 kilometres (nine miles) north of the capital as the fighters were being bussed to Ashraf camp. An Iraqi on a bus on the other side of the road was also killed.

The Mujahedeen blamed "terrorists sent by the Iranian regime" for the attack, which came two months after it assassinated a top general in Tehran.

The Mujahedeen said it "reserves its own right to respond and its legitimate right to defend its combatants against the attacks of the clerical regime."

The attack was the 24th by Iranian agents since moderate cleric Mohammad Khatami was elected Iran's president in May 1997, according to the Mujahedeen, and the 75th in the last six years.

After the bombing, Rajavi called on the United Nations "to take urgent measures to halt the crimes of the mullahs outside Iran" and urged Baghdad to close down the Iranian embassy.

The Mujahedeen, based in Iraq since 1986, mounts cross-border raids and regularly accuses Iran of attacks. Two bombs exploded near its Baghdad headquarters last Saturday, without causing casualties.

At a Baghdad meeting in mid-May, the Mujahedeen leadership set a target of May 2001 for the overthrow of the Tehran government.

The Mujahedeen's deployment in Iraq, where it has five main military bases, is a key obstacle to a normalisation of ties between Baghdad and Tehran.


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