Shooting down an Iranian airliner was part of a world plot against Iran, and the nation's leaders agree the best way of foiling it is to confront America, parliament speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani said Friday.
Iranian news reports said three more bodies from the Iran Air jet - of a man, woman and child - were found in the Persian Gulf.A U.S. warship shot down the Airbus A300 last Sunday, killing all 290 people aboard. American officials said officers of the USS Vincennes thought it was an attacking Iranian F-14 fighter.
Rafsanjani, who also is Iran's military commander, said: "An extensive program has been prepared, in order to save (Iraq), to deprive the Islamic Republic of its rights." Iran and Iraq have been at war since September 1980.
He said Iran would not seek revenge for the attack, which contradicted statements by other Iranian leaders.
"The United States is trying to push us to commit the same crime . . . but if we did that, the world would turn against us," Rafsanjani told tens of thousands at a weekly prayer service. "That is why we do not push to take revenge. Wise people understand why we do not take revenge."
Prayer services on the Moslem sabbath often are forums for important political speeches.
Rafsanjani said the United States was emphasizing different reactions among the Iranian leadership in an attempt to portray it as divided.
"In Iran, all the officials are agreed on the fact that we should confront America, and all our officials and people believe that we should continue on our path until we achieve our rights," he said.
Iran has said often it will continue the war until it achieves its "rights," a fluctuating body of demands centered on the world branding Iraq the aggressor. Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980 after several border skirmishes.
Before Rafsanjani spoke, the newly formed General Command issued a statement exhorting "all persons who can carry a gun" to report for war duty.
Western diplomats said the remarks by Rafsanjani, considered second in power to revolutionary patriarch Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, indicate Tehran may have decided on a restrained response to the loss of the airliner.
As is common during prayer services in Iran, the crowd chanted "Death to America!" and "War, War Until Victory!" In the audience were young "basij," or volunteers, in red headbands; a few wounded war veterans, and Iraqi prisoners of war.
Brig. Gen Mansour Satari, the U.S.-trained chief of the Iranian air force, said late Thursday that the U.S. Navy must have been able to monitor 21 minutes of conversation in English between the Airbus and its Iranian control tower.
But a Pentagon spokesman said they were not sure U.S. forces in the gulf were monitoring, or were able to monitor, air traffic control communications at the time of the incident.
"We are looking forward to an analysis of the tapes to help clarify the issue,' said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Baumann, a Pentagon spokesman.
Satari told foreign reporters the shooting was "intentional and unprovoked," but qualified that later by saying the U.S. military "accepted on purpose" the risk of attacking civilian planes because it could not control its sophisticated systems.