Iranian and Iraqi warplanes raided each other's cities today and each side claimed battledfield victories as the Persian Gulf war sputtered into its fifth week.
Iranian fighter-bombers attacked Baghdad and four towns in northern Iraq, and Iraqi aircraft fired rockets near the railway station of Ahwaz, the capital of Khuzestan Province, as both sides ignored new appeals for a cease-fire to mark a four-day Moslem religious holiday that started today.
In the Iraqi capital there were signs that the war, already one of the longest and most costly in modern Middle Eastern history, was forcing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to appeal for financial aid from other Arab states and understanding from his own people.
"Iranian aircraft can reach any point in Iraqi because our area is smaller than theirs and they have a greater number of planes," the Iraqi leader told the nation in a speech. He said that any Iranian plane could bomb Baghdad after flying 75 miles, whereas Iraqi planes had to fly 500 miles to reach Tehran.
Saddam Hussein also said that Iran had more artillery than Iraq, more advanced tanks, a Navy that "can reach long-distance targets," the best American and Western training and "better arms."
In other remarks, Saddam Hussein urged his soldiers to "strike hard because you are truly God's sword on earth," and he told Iraqi women to shun men who shunned combat, The Associated Press reported.
The Tehran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini told Iranians to prepare for a "holy war," and President Abol HassanBani-Sadr told soldiers in a radio broadcast, "You must be prepared for a continuation of this war."
Today, in fact, there appeared to be little change in the static battle conditions as Iraqi forces seemed unable to penetrate Iranian resistance along a 500-mile front.
Just as the fighting sputtered along with no resolution in sight, so did truce efforts. Habib Chatti, secretary general of the Islamic Conference, arrived in Iran today for talks with Iranian leaders after meeting the Iraqis in Baghdad.
Shortly after arriving in Tehran, Chatti flew under cover of darkness to an unidentified location in Khuzestan Province for a meeting with Bani-Sadr, Reuter reported from the Iranian capital. Chatti later called the visit very useful. He said he also planned to request a meeting with Khomeini.
On his way between the two warring capitals, Chatti stopped in Islamabad to consult with Pakistani President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq. He and Chatti were named by the Islamic nations to attempt to mediate the war, which not only has split the Moslem world but threatens the West's oil supplies.
Fighting continued today despite Zia's plea for a truce during the holiday of Aid al-Adha, which marks the end of the hajj, or the holy Moslem pilgrimage to Mecca.
"This is war. There are no holidays," said an Iraqi government official in this port city on the Shatt-al-Arab waterway between the two countries.
Once more today there were conflicting claims from both sides on the fighting and no way to verify them independently.
In the latest war communiques, the Iraqis claimed to be mopping up pockets of resistance in Khorramshahr. The Iraqis first said they captured the key Iranian port city three weeks ago, but it still appears to be partially held by Revolutionary Guards, the elite Iranian corps formed to protect the Islamic revolution.
The Iraqis have been pounding the city with heavy artillery from across the disputed Shatt-al-Arab for most of the past week, leaving the port city a heavily damaged inferno.
The Iraqis also said they have taken a strategic Iranian military camp near Khorramshahr, where they captured 84 Iranian prisoners and destroyed 10 tanks and missile launchers. In a later Radio Baghdad report, the Iraqis said they knocked out 84 tanks -- an incredibly large number to be hit in a single battle -- and killed, wounded or captured 400 Iranian soldiers.
The Iranians, for their part, reported more heavy fighting around Abadan, the site of the Middle East's largest oil refinery, where they said they repulsed an Iraqi attack backed by heavy artillery before dawn today. The Iranians said they pushed the Iraqi forces back three miles from the city, which has been under siege and has taken heavy artillery bombardment.
Because of the heavy artillery attacks, which the Iranians said were aimed at the Abadan hospital, Tehran radio reported today that 100 casualties were evacuated by Navy hovercraft to the Persian Gulf port of Bushehr.
A military analyst suggested that a key factor in what is becoming a war of attribution now might be the Iraqi supply of heavy artillery shells, which have a short shelf life and because of their bulk are not readily available in the world's arms market.
Both sides appear to be conserving their jet fuel by launching air attacks much less frequently than they did at the beginning of the war.
News services reported these other developments related to the war:
The Palestine Liberation Organization has proposed a face-saving peace plan, according to Salah Khalaf, also known as Abu Iyad, the number two man in the guerrilla group. He told a Lebanese magazine that the PLO proposed a cease-fire accompanied by an Iraqi announcement of willingness to withdraw to the borders specified by the 1975 Algiers treaty or the 1913 Constantinople accords an Iranian declaration of readiness to negotiate directly with Iraq. Khalaf said nonaligned or Islamic states would supervise the withdrawal of Iraqi troops, after which negotiations would start.
The London Sunday Times newspaper reported that Iran was massing "substantial forces for what looks like an early invasion of northern Iraq."