President Saddam Hussein tonight threatened to widen the Persian Gulf war to Iran's untouched oil fields and beyond to force Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to sue for a peace that he said would bring lasting stability to the critical oil-rich region.
While reiterating that Iraq has no territorial ambitions in Iran and is prepared to withdraw its armies from Iranian territory immediately once Tehran recognizes Iraq's "legitmate rights," Hussein warned that his nation was both prepared and willing to keep escalating the two-month-old war until the Iranian rulers give in.
Saddam Hussein delivered his stern warning in a wide-ranging, 2 1/2-hour press conference before about 200 international journalists. It was his first meeting with the foreign media since the war began Sept. 22.
Exuding confidence and occasionally cracking jokes, the Iraqi president said that his nation did not want to "humiliate Iran" but he was at war with the country to establish Iraq's sovereignty and national interest and "for this reason we are twisting the arms of the Iranian leaders will continue to twist them any amount necessary."
"If what we're doing is not sufficient, then we will exceed it," Saddam Hussein said. "For this there are things other than pipelines and oil refineries. Iran's oil fields are no longer far from our Army's reach. And a great number of other cities are too."
The Iraqi armed forces already have dealt crippling blows to the Iranian economy by invading Khuzestan Province, the keystone of Iran's oil industry. eThe war has forced Iran to impose strict gasoline rationing, and yesterday the Tehran government announced that other essential commodities also would be rationed.
Although Iraq's Army has moved slowly it has finally captured the province's important commercial port of Khorramshahr, on the disputed Shatt-al-Arab waterway; surrounded the neighboring city of Abadan and reduced its vast oil refinery complex -- once the biggest in the Middle East -- to a jumble of twisted and burned-out metal after seven weeks of relentless artillery shelling.
The Iraqis also have blown up two major Iranian oil pipelines to Tehran and bombed several other refineries in the interior. They are also besieging the provincial capital of Ahwaz and threatening the major provincial military base at Dezful. But so far they have not advanced on the province's bountiful oil fields.
In answer to other questions, the Iraqi president:
Dismissed as irrevelent the issue of a possible resumption of U.S. shipments of spare parts and previously bought weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of the hostages. He said the war was not the question of weapons so much as the quality and morale of the men that use them and since Iraqi soldiers were better motivated and trained than the Iranians, the U.S. supplies would have little effect on the war's ultimate outcome.
Denied that relations with Moscow, his chief arms supplier, were strained because of the Soviet Union's ambiguous neutrality in the conflict despite its 20-year treaty of friendship and cooperation with Iraq. In the treaty, he said, "we did not say we would defend the Soviet Union when it has a conflict with another country, and they did not say they would defend us when we have a clash with our enemies."
Shrugged off still unspecified Iranian bombing damage to the two controversial nuclear research reactors being built by the French at Tuwaitha outside Baghdad.
"The people who built the reactors, if damaged partially or wholly, are able to build us others like them," he said. "We're going to get atomic energy at any price for the sake of Iraq."
He insisted, however, that this energy would be for peaceful purposes only, despite Israeli claims that the reactors were being set up so Iraq could build an atom bomb.
Scoffed at Iranian outrage about the captured near Ahwaz 10 days ago of Iranian Oil Minister Mohammed Javad Tondguyan.
"We didn't capture him strolling down the streets of Paris, did we?" he said laughingly, insisting that the oil minister would be held and treated like any other prisoner of war.
Denied that Iraq was seeking the dismemberment of Iran and reemphasized that once Iraq's claims were met, its Army would withdraw from all Iranian territory. He said the question of autonomy for Khuzestan would be left to the majority Arab population and non-Persian groups there.
The Iraqi president restated that he was seeking Iran's recognition of Iraqi sovereignty over the Shatt-al-Arab as well as minor territorial adjustments along their border of lands long claimed by Iraq but which it had been forced to give up to the shah of Iran in a treaty signed under pressure in 1975. Saddam Hussein unilaterally abrogated the treaty in September on the eve of the war.
Hussein also revived the issue of the three tiny islands at the mouth of the Persian Gulf that the shah took from the sheikdom of Ras al-Khaima in 1971, and he said that until they were returned to Arab sovereignty freedom of navigation in the gulf, and therefore real peace in the region, could not be guaranteed.
"So long as we have a war let's straighten out the whole situation," Hussein said, "so the world will have a real peace."
The Iraqi president dismissed criticism about the fact that his armed forces had clearly not won the quick and conclusive victory over the Iranians it had sought when it launched its Army into Khuzestan.
He said that his military planners had learned from Arab war experiences against Israel in 1967 and 1973 of the need to make careful calculations and preparations for all contingencies, especially that of a war that lasts longer than anticipated.
"We are quite satisfied with out calculations and preparations for this war with our enemy," Hussein said. "Our calculations are still correct; in fact, they seem better now than when we made the decision to go to war."