Iran told the Security Council Thursdaythat the United States committed a "barbaric crime" in shooting down an Iranian airliner and denied U.S. claims that the Navy warned the jetliner before the attack.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Velayati, in an angry speech, accused the United States of a premeditated attack on the airliner with 290 people aboard."This was the most inhuman military attack in the history of civil aviation," he said.
He accused the United States of "arrogance, indifference and a campaign of lies . . . to justify this barbaric crime at any cost . . .
"This was a premeditated act of aggression against the integrity of Tehran . . . a massacre," he said.
Vice President George Bush today called the accident a "terrible human tragedy" but told the Security Council that Iran shares the responsibility.
In a prepared statement to be delivered to the council, Bush said Iran "allowed a civilian aircraft loaded with passengers to proceed on a path over a warship engaged in battle. That was irresponsible and a tragic error."
The vice president said he would not "dignify with a response the charge that we deliberately destroyed Iran Air 655."
Velayati quoted the radio transcript of recordings between Flight 655 and control towers and said it shows that, contrary to the U.S. version, the plane never received warnings from the Vincennes on July 3.
"It was traveling in an established civilian air corridor and transmitting an internationally recognized signal to identify itself . . . Claiming mistaken identity is absurd," Velayati said.
He rebutted U.S. claims that the plane was descending in an attack mode, that it was transmitting ambiguous civilian and military signals and that it was outside a recognized air corridor.
The Navy said the cruiser's crew mistook the A300 Airbus for a fighter jet and the plane ignored radioed warnings.
A U.S. vice president has not spoken to the council in years, and the appearance of Bush, a former U.N. ambassador, was considered a major gesture of hopes for better relations with Iran after nearly nine years of hostility.
Bush was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under former President Richard Nixon from 1971 to 1973. This is believed to be his first appearance at the U.N. since. President Reagan has appeared six times.
The presence of a U.S. vice president or any nation's No. 2 leader is highly unusual in the Security Council, where nations usually send ambassadors or foreign ministers.
The high-profile appearance also is expected to give a boost to Bush's presidential campaign as he seeks to steal the limelight from his Democratic rival, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater denied any political motivation for the appearance by Bush, the presumed Republican presidential nominee.
"The vice president does not normally appear before the Security Council and in this way we can again highlight our position," Fitzwater said.
"The vice president will demonstrate to the Security Council and the world the U.S. concern on this matter, the seriousness with which we take it and our dedication to take steps to try to end the Iran-Iraq war."
After Reagan chose him on Wednesday to present the U.S. case, Bush said in Washington, "I can't wait to get up there to defend the policy of the United States government."
He said efforts to "second-guess" the captain of the Vincennes "will be rebuffed. ... It's the free world's case."
The United States already has expressed deep regret for the attack and promised compensation to the families of the victims, but not to the Iranian government. But it would veto any Security Council resolution of condemnation.
The United States broke diplomatic relations with Iran in November 1979 after Iranian revolutionaries stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took Americans hostage, holding them for more than a year.