Although Iran has rejected the peace formula proposed March 4 by the Islamic delegation to end the war with Iraq, diplomatic sources say the rejection is not total -- and that the peace effort will continue.
Iran's official reply to the proposals still had not been handed to the Islamic Conference Organization (ICO) as of March 9. But from the public statements made by Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei it was clear that Iran has rejected only specific parts of the peace plan.
"At least the ice is broken," one diplomat said. "It will probably take a few more shuttles by the delegation before an agreement is reached."
Ayatollah Khamenei, who is official spokesman of Iran's High Defense Council, told a television interviewer March 7 that he expected the shuttle to continue. "As Habib Chatti has said when the delegation was last here, it will continue its journeys between Iran and Iraq until it has achieved results."
Khamenei and President Bani-Sadr have spelled out three principles under which Iran will accept a cessation of hostilities:
* The cease-fire and Iraqi troop withdrawal must be simultaneous.
* A commission must be set up to identify and punish the aggressor.
* The agreement must be within the framework of the 1975 Algiers Accord between the two countries.
Analyzing the three principles, a diplomatic source said none of them was in contradiction to anything the Islamic mission has proposed. In the peace plan presented March 4, the mission had called for a cease-fire to start at midnight between March 12 and 13, while troop withdrawals would begin after one week and would be completed within four weeks.
"If the withdrawals take place while the cease-fire is in effect, that means the two are simultaneous," the source said.
There was no mention in the proposal that the cease-fire would be temporary, but if the Iraqi troops were to end their withdrawal within four weeks that would show that they did not intend to stay in Iran indefinitely while negotiations about the disputed territory continued.
The delegation also proposed the setting up a commission of military observers to supervise the cease-fire and Iraqi troop withdrawals. "The same commission, being made up of military men, could investigate who started the war ," the diplomat said.
Whether it would be empowered to suggest a punishment for the aggressor is not clear, but the peace proposals still could be changed to suit the demands of both sides.
For the agreement to be "within the framework of the 1975 Algiers Accord" also apparently presents no major obstacle to peace. Though the 1975 accord divides the Shatt al Arab waterway equally between Iraq and Iran, there is a clause in the accord itself which says that any further dispute on articles of the accord should be settled through negotiations.
Another diplomatic source suggested that the final proposal by the Islamic delegation would fit in with the Iranian demands.
The Islamic Conference Organization will decide what its next step will be after it has received the official response of both sides in its secretariat in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia.
"It may decide to send Mr. Chatti on a shuttle or the delegation itself may assemble once again," and resume its journeys between the two countries, the diplomat pointed out.
One reason for the speed with which the delegation acted was that it was made up of such high-level members (including five heads of state and government) that they could not afford to spend too much time on the shuttle. In five days of shuttling, they spent a total of nine hours talking to the Iranians.
Actually, the March 4 trip when the proposals were handed to both countries almost did not occur. When the team assembled in Jiddah the day before, there was a proposal to send the peace formula to Tehran and Baghdad through a representative of the delegation.
However, Bangladesh President Ziaur Rahman, who is the ICO vice-president, argued that at least one more trip by the whole delegation was necessary.
He won out, and "it was during this [second] trip that th e ice was broken," the source said.