Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on Iran's Search of the United States Merchant Ship President Taylor

January 13, 1986

Iran's practice of stopping neutral shipping in the Gulf has now been carried out for approximately 5 months and has involved stopping vessels from Kuwait, Italy, West Germany, Denmark, Yugoslavia, Poland, and Japan, among others. The rules of naval warfare have traditionally accorded a belligerent certain rights to ascertain whether neutral shipping is being used to provide contraband to an opposing belligerent. We are continuing to assess the facts of this particular incident, not all of which are yet known, to determine whether this stop and search was appropriate under the circumstances.

Nevertheless, we consider the Iranian policy of stopping and searching neutral shipping in the Gulf region to be one of the significant consequences created by the Iran-Iraq war. The dangerous conflict between Iran and Iraq now continues because of Iran's intransigent refusal to participate in a negotiated solution. We have stated our deep concern about this incident because of the danger of misunderstandings, overstepping of rights and norms, and even violence, which are inherent in all ship search incidents. The United States Government repeats its call for Iran to change its position regarding a solution to the conflict, and again calls for the earliest possible end to the war, with the sovereignty and territorial integrity of both sides intact.

Note: Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters at 12:15 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.