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Iran, US Exempt from Compensation for Attacks in 1980s - 2003-11-06

Judges at the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled Thursday that neither Iran nor the United States has to pay compensation for attacks on each other during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

This case deals with events that happened in the late 1980s, when Iran and Iraq were at war, and the United States sided with Iraq.

U.S. forces destroyed three Iranian oil platforms in 1987 and 1988. U.S. officials say the attacks were in retaliation for Iranian strikes on U.S. ships in the Gulf.

But Iran took the United States to the World Court in 1992, saying Washington broke a 1955 friendship agreement, and that its actions impeded trade. Iran wanted compensation.

The United States filed a counter-claim, arguing that it was Iran that violated the treaty by attacking U.S. vessels in the Gulf with mines and missiles, and making trade difficult and dangerous. The United States also sought reparations.

But the judges ruled that neither side is entitled to them.

They found that the United States did use unjustified and disproportional force against Iran. But they concluded that, at the time of the incidents, there was no commerce between the two countries anyway, at first because the platforms in question were not operating, and later because the United States had an oil embargo against Iran.

On the U.S. counter-suit, the judges ruled that none of the ships it claimed were damaged was engaged in trade at the time.

Neither side got what it was looking for from the court, which is the United Nations' highest judicial body, but an 11-year-old legal dispute is finally over.