Seven Iraqi warplanes made emergency landings in Iran Saturday and Tehran later said it would seize the jets until the Persian Gulf war is over, Iran's official news agency said.
The Islamic Republic News Agency reported the Supreme National Security Council, meeting in an emergency session, declared Iran was neutral and warned that the battling nations should steer clear of Iranian air space.But Iran also said its relief organization the Red Crescent (the Muslim equivalent to the Red Cross) would provide relief to the Iraqi people, according to the IRNA report monitored in Cairo.
Iraq is reportedly suffering from shortages of food and medicine as the result of a 5-month-long trade embargo imposed by the United Nations. The shortages have become acute since allied forces have begun night and day bombing raids of key Iraqi installations, according to witnesses fleeing the country.
Iran fought a bitter eight-year war with Iraq between 1980 and 1988. But since the Aug. 2 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has sought to curry favor with his former enemy, returning Iranian prisoners of war and agreeing to accept long-disputed borders.
Tehran has officially condemned the invasion of Kuwait, but has been more critical of the U.S.-led effort to oust Iraqi troops from the emirate by force.
Baghdad Radio said Saturday warplanes had been forced late Friday, or early Saturday morning, to enter Iranian airspace, but it provided no details. It said Iraqi officials had contacted Tehran in an attempt to get back the planes and pilots.
Iran said Saturday one of the Iraqi planes crashed into flames and that two others were damaged when they landed.
"The Supreme National Security Council decided Saturday that any planes belonging to the belligerent parties making emergency landings in Iran will be seized until the end of the war," IRNA reported.
"In view of Iran's neutrality, the council warns the belligerent parties that they should refrain from using the Iranian airspace in any form."