Iran's deputy foreign minister, Muhammed Javad Larijani, is to arrive in New York today for meetings at the United Nations, where he is expected to demand ``concrete action'' by the international community to hold Iraq accountable for ``criminal atrocities'' in the Gulf war. The demand won't be new. The force behind it will be.
Iran's string of military successes on the northern warfront and Iraq's loss of prestige in the wake of the reports of the Halabja chemical attack give new momentum to Iran's quest to isolate Iraq diplomatically and overthrow its government.
Iraq broke a weekend lull in attacks on cities with a raid on Tabriz Sunday afternoon. More Iraqi missiles fell on Isfahan and Qom yesterday. Iranian forces continued to push deeper into Iraq's northern Sulaimaniya province.
At a Tehran press conference on Sunday, Mr. Larijani said Iran is prepared to launch ``punitive offensives'' against Iraq.
``If the Iraqis continue their atrocities against our cities we have plenty of surprises,'' said Larijani.
Iran appears to be digging in its heels on its demands that Iraq be denounced as the aggressor in the seven-year Iran-Iraq war.
And Larijani said that Iran will be adding a new condition for its acceptance of a cease-fire: that Iraq be held accountable and punished for attacks on civilian areas and its use of chemical weapons.
``I think the war of the cities and the use of chemical weapons is not justified at anytime,'' said Larijani, adding ``it is a war crime.''
The deputy foreign minister said the United Nations should strongly condemn Iraq for its reported use of chemical weapons in Iraqi Kurdistan. He said that punitive measures should be taken against Iraq, including a possible embargo on shipments to Iraq of the raw materials for making chemical weapons.
He said Iran supported a total ban on the use, storage, and manufacture of chemical weapons. But he stopped short of pledging that Iran would never deploy chemical weapons on the battlefield.
The US State Department said last month that Iran may have used chemical weapons during its attack on the Iraqi city of Halabja in mid-March.
Larijani said the US contention was ``very naive.'' He said the statement was an attempt to ``justify American support for Iraq.''