A ground struggle in Mideast

The war between Iran and Iraq appears to have entered a new phase over the past few days, with noticeably fewer bombing raids from Iraq on Iran and the action confined mainly to ground fighting in the Khorramshahr-Abadan sector, correspondent Bill Baker reports.

Iranian leaders have avoided mention of the Iraqi advance on Abadan, made after the Iraqis apparently abandoned an earlier attempt to bring Khorramshahr completely under their control.

The Iraqis met with stiff resistance from the town, mainly from Islamic fundamentalists who believe they are fighting for the faith.

The Iraqi move on Abadan may not be aimed at gaining control of the refinery in the town, said to be the world's largest. An Iranian religious judge, Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali, who was recently in the area, told a Tehran newspaper that the refinery was in ruins.

The Ayatollah did not indicate how the fighting was going for Iran on the Abadan front, but he told reporters: "In every war there is retreat and there is advance."

This appeared to be a cautious admission of setbacks in the area. Ayatollah Khalkhali himself commands a force of Islamic Revolutionary Guards who have been fighting with fanatical zeal n Khorramshahr. They claim to have destroyed "50 to 60" Iraqi tanks and other armored vehicles in the battle for the town.

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