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Council Agrees on ICAO Probe, Four Favor Condemnation With PM-Airliner-UN, Bjt

July 14, 1988 GMT

MONTREAL (AP) _ The governing council of International Civil Aviation Organization today agreed that the world body should investigate the U.S. downing of an Iranian jetliner, but it refused to condemn the United States for the incident.

Iran wanted the ICAO to condemn the United States for the missile attack July 3 that killed 290 people. Only four of the council’s 33 member nations, the Soviet Union, China, Czechoslovakia, and Cuba, spoke in favor of condemnation.

There was no formal vote either on a condemnation or on the investigation.

No one spoke in dissent of Iran’s call for an independent ICAO investigation of the disaster.

After today’s meeting, ICAO President Dr. Assad Kotaite called a recess in the special two-day session so members could hold private consulations.

The only time the ICAO has condemned a nation in a formal resolution was in 1973, when it criticized Israel for attacking Lebanese civilian aircraft, ICAO officials said.

Chinese delegate Li Keli called for a ″full and impartial investigation.″ ″We condemn this action,,″ he said of the missile attack. ″The Chinese government is opposed to big power military involvement in the gulf region.″

The United States offered its defense Wednesday.

″Iranian vessels were attacking U.S. naval vessels at the very moment that Iran Air 655 took off from Bandar Abbas,″ U.S. assistant Secretary of State Richard S. Williamson said in a 15-page defense at the opening meeting.

″The plane headed straight for the scene of the conflict and failed to heed, or even answer, the repeated warnings and requests for identification.

″Some degree of responsibility must be taken by Iran for putting its aircraft in this vulnerable position,″ Williamson argued.

He said the captain of the USS Vincennes, which the Pentagon says mistook the Iranian airliner for an F-14 fighter, had just four minutes to react and that fair-minded people would find the captain’s decision reasonable in the circumstances.

Williamson blamed Iran for not heeding a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire the 8-year-old Iran-Iraq war.

He said U.S. forces are in the gulf only to protect naval and air traffic, which he termed a ″major victim″ of the war.

Iranian spokesman Hassan Shafty said the Iran Air Airbus A300 was exactly where it was scheduled to be when it was shot down - ascending from Bandar Abbas on a 28-minute scheduled flight to Dubai.

Later, in answer to a Soviet question, Williamson said the Vincennes was aware there were scheduled flights in the area.

Iran asked the ICAO council to form a fact-finding team and recommend means of preventing a recurrence.

It also sought ″explicit condemnation″ of the United States for using weapons against a civilian airliner, and demanded the end of ″obstacles, restrictions, threats and use of force″ against Iranian air space.

The United States called for minimum altitude requirements, unambiguous radar signals and better radio communications to ensure that warnings to pilots are received.

West Germany and Brazil were among countries urging ICAO to review provisions for coordinating military and civilian air traffic control.

After a majority of council members had spoken Wednesday, it was clear there was little support for political attacks on the United States.

U.S. permanent representative Edmund Stohr said Washington has many allies in the ICAO who appreciate the way U.S. patrols have kept oil flowing from the Persian Gulf.

The Soviet delegate, Ivan Vasin, read a government statement issued last week saying the tragedy ″was far from accidental.″ He termed the attack ″a grievous international offense for which the United States bears full responsibility.″

But Soviet emphasis was on the future, suggesting that a United Nations naval force replace the U.S. fleet in the gulf and echoing Williamson’s call for immediate action to reroute civilian air traffic away from gulf hot spots.

Several speakers urged more countries to ratify a 1984 ICAO protocol banning the use of force against civilian aircraft. Only 48 of ICAO’s 159 member nations have ratified the amendment.