US signals Iran on hostages
Four days ago, the United States reportedly sent a new message to Tehran discussing Iranian conditions under which the US hostages would be released. The American response was:
* Resolution of the crisis in US-Iranian relations is possible only after the release of the hostages.
* The US is prepared, once the hostages are released and have been returned to US control, to issue at an appropriate time a statement recognizing Iran's grievances against the former regime and concerning past Iranian-US relations.
The US then is prepared to recognize the Islamic government as the sole legitimate representative of the Iranian people. It also will respect whatever government the people of Iran choose and will conduct relations with Iran according to international law and protocol.
The US is ready to facilitate a public investigation of the regime of the late Shah and of US-Iranian relations. It also is ready to agree with Iranians on a forum in which Iran can express its grievances.
* The US will unfreeze Iranian assets on condition that Iran recognizes its financial commitments toward claims of US citizens.
* The US is prepared to give appropriate recognition to Iran's right to go before US courts to exercise its claim to those possessions in the US that are part of the fortune of the late Shah, or that are directly or indirectly controlled by his family.
* The Us is prepared to reestablish commercial relations should the Iranians wish to do so and will assign a government official to this task should the Iranians indicate their interest. He will be empowered to discuss the delivery of industrial and military goods to Iran.
* The Us is willing to discuss the establishment of diplomatic relations with Iran directly or indirectly should Iran wish to do so.
* The US will ensure the status of Iranians in the US and protect them from harassment after the hostages are released and secure.
Iran's Majlis (parliament) meanwhile decided Oct. 26 to meet behind closed doors to listen to and debate the report of the parliamentary commission on the US hostages. Well-informed sources who participated in the de bate disclosed that the commission report talks only about the four demands mentioned by Ayatollah Khomeini in a speech a little more than a month ago.
These are: (1) unfreezing of Iran's assets, (2) return of the Shah's money, ( 3) a US promise not to interfere in Iran's internal affairs, and (4) cancellation of all US claims against Iran.
The report sticks to these four demands. No mention was made of further demands, such as withdrawal of US radar surveillance planes from Saudi Arabia, or US support for its Mideast allies. Debate was scheduled to continue Oct. 27.
The speaker of parliament, Hojatolislam Hashemi Rafsanjani, told reporters in Tehran this week that once parliament had taken its decision on the hostages, the government would have a free hand to implement the decision in any way it sees fit.
This was described by well-informed sources as a "fantastic development." Mr. Rafsanjani stressed that only several weeks ago the Majlis was demanding that it alone negotiate the release of the hostages.
A close aide to President Abolhassan BaniSadr appeared to be less enthusiastic, however, when he said, "We have the will to resolve the crisis. I hope we also have the ability."
It is also pointed out that Ayatollah Khomeini himself has yet to throw his full weight in public behind an early end to the hostage crisis. Well-informed sources say that Khomeini is extremely sensitive to the moods of the Iranian people and recall that during the attempt last Easter to resolve crisis he backed down because he felt the time was not yet ripe.
There is hope that the time now is ripe. It is said Khomeini will be meeting members of parliament on Oct. 28 and may well discuss the hostage issue then.
Members of parliament described the Oct. 26 session as being moderate in tone , with participants not wishing to increase Iran's conditions for release and hoping for an early resolution of the problem.
"We don't want to add more conditions. Why should we do so?" said one member usually known for his hard-line views.
Questions also have been raised about whether to release all 52 hostages at once or in several smaller groups. One reason for releasing them in stages is that this would keep up pressure on the US to live up to its agreements.
Although President Bani-Sadr is said to be in favor of releasing the hostages in one block, he does not rule out the possibility that they will be freed in groups. Some speculate there may be two to four groups.
"It will be up to parliament to decide but it is not important," said a member of the Majlis. "The problem is that some [hostages] are far away, and we are in a war situation. Therefore, for practical reasons we may have to free the hostages in groups, releasing those who are nearest first."
Ayatollah Muhammad Khoeyni, a member of the hostage commission and mentor of the students holding the hostages, told Pars News Agency Oct. 2, "If the US accepts some of the conditions, then some of the hostages can be released."