Iranian, U.S. Warships ‘Professional, Courteous’

MONDAY, OCT. 20, 1997

Iranian and U.S. warships were “professional and courteous” to each other during maneuvers in the Persian Gulf, although the Iranians photographed the Americans, the commander of a U.S. aircraft carrier said Sunday.

“We could see camera flashes going off from exercising Iranian vessels when they saw us … We had no problems with that,” said Capt. I.E. Richardson, commanding officer of the USS Nimitz.

Carrying 75 aircraft, the Nimitz is leading a seven-ship battle group that was hurriedly deployed in the Gulf on Oct. 11, two weeks ahead of schedule to enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq.

The aircraft have been flying some 50 sorties a day since the mission began three days after the battle group’s arrival, Richardson said.

He said no violations of the no-fly zone have been reported and Iraqi planes were flying only in the allowed airspace.

The zone, created by U.S. and its allies to protect Iraq’s minority Shiite population from Saddam Hussein’s forces, was violated on Sept. 29 when Iranian air force planes attacked Iranian opposition bases in southern Iraq.

Iraq sent up two fighters in pursuit, further violating the zone.

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